Which Spirit? (Part III)

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Greyeyes, that wily old bird, he showed me things that I’d thought of before, but in ways that I didn’t fully understand yet. I was on a trek through the wilds that had once been Portland, Oregon, and I was minding my own damned business like usual. The Pacific Northwest has been almost vacant of people for years now, and yet there are a few of us that go traipsing hither and yon, either banding together to survive, or remaining apart from a society that’s crumbled in the years since the pandemic. I’ve kept apart from humanity as much as I can, and to be fair, Greyeyes was the first human being I’d seen in at least six months.

It wasn’t exactly a peaceful meeting, since I’m still convinced he came close to getting me killed. Wild animals had nearly taken over the whole of Portland, since it had been mostly abandoned for nearly two decades after the pandemic hit. The city was a hotbed of disease and insanity when the plague hit, but after only a couple of decades, all that remained was a broken city that had swiftly been reclaimed by nature. But it wasn’t dead by any means. The Oregon Zoo, just up the road from the downtown area, had been emptied by someone, I don’t know who, maybe a big-hearted employee or someone that was just hoping to finish off whoever was left. Humanity is screwed up, that’s all I’ve been able to figure.

But the city had played host to a bunch of critters that had carved out their own ecological niche within one area or another. What few humans remained, as I learned, had adapted to the presence of their animal neighbors, and had learned how to avoid them. Of course, the only thing about this was that Greyeyes was the last, or so he thought. To make a long story short, I was heading down 1st Avenue, near the Willamette River, when I was cornered by pack of wolves underneath an overpass. It wasn’t my first animal attack, but with four wolves against one of me, it might have been my last. I wasn’t going down without a fight though, since I’ve always remained armed over my travels, and I pulled my two machetes, sharpened and worn after many battles, to make it known that I had my own claws.

I was facing down four sets of teeth, all of them which were bared and ready to rip me apart, and I knew I was going down. But then Greyeyes came, and things only got worse.

(to be continued)

Which Spirit? (Part II)

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I suppose I’d better tell you the story of how I came to be on this road. I’ll keep it short, since I get the feeling that a lot of folks are of the mind that a long-winded rant won’t be fully appreciated. The long and short of it is that I’ve collected gods and goddesses and faiths and cultures like sets of clothing over the years. I don’t appropriate anything if that’s what you’re thinking, and I don’t take them for granted, but I do study them, and I appreciate them since this world isn’t what it once was, which means that walking the many pathways of each battered and overgrown landscape has left me wondering how anyone could have gotten it so wrong. The bombs didn’t fall, global warming didn’t kill people off. People killed people off.

Our differences, our need to be right about each and every damned thing, and our inability to get along has been our downfall from the start. Well, things finally reached a boiling point, just without the nuclear fire that people were so afraid of for so long. Nope, the pandemic that hit about twenty years ago became a reason for people to tear at each other in a new way, and create a monster far more horrible than anything humanity had ever faced before.

People thought COVID-19 was bad when it traveled from one shore to the next, but COVID-C was a death sentence that the world never saw coming, You want to know what the C stands for, right? The worst part, before I tell you, is that this new pandemic wasn’t created on accident, or by happenstance: it was manmade, and it was released on purpose. The records of who first released the disease have been lost, primarily because the world fell quicker and harder than the coronavirus could have ever done. Mixing COVID-19 with cholera though, that whipped humanity’s ass in a way that no one was prepared for, and only thousands had a natural immunity to. Yes, there was and is now such a thing as natural immunity, but it’s exceedingly rare.

Ah, damn. I was going to talk about Greyeyes, right? Let’s get onto that subject.

(to be continued)

Which Spirit?

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Yuma, AZ

I’ve had many interesting conversations throughout my life, some of them with people like myself, and others with people that look, talk, and believe differently than I do. You know what I’ve figured out at this point in time? We’re all essentially the same beneath everything we build up to describe who we are. In essence, we’re the same on the inside, but on the outside, where we strive for individuality, we make twisting pathways and roads toward the same star while convincing ourselves that our path is the right path, for us or anyone else.

Some of us are smart enough to avoid stating that this is the only path, that it’s the only road that’s needed to reach that final goal that we all seek. And then some of us take it a step further and realize that the goal might be the same thing, but the horizon we walk toward to reach it will change from one point to another as we keep pushing forward. Those that refuse to move forward are often those that some folks will pity or look upon in disgust or disappointment, since they’ve given up on the horizon and just want to focus on their patch of dirt, their place in the world. Some might even want to bury themselves in that spot and admit that they can’t move on.

My opinion of such folks is simple: you do what you feel is necessary. I don’t have a lot of respect for those that are willing to give up and pack it in, but I don’t hate them. I don’t pity them, and I don’t care one way or another. You make choices in this life, and if walking forward to meet that next horizon, perhaps to see if your goal is just beyond it, has been one of the driving forces of my life. It still is, but after meeting Jarrod Greyeyes, I’ve gained a little more insight as to the goal, and shifting horizons that we continue to travel toward.

I suppose now would be a good time to introduce Greyeyes into this story, since the middle-aged scout changed my way of thinking just enough to make me realize what I hadn’t been seeing. I’d even wager it’s something that a lot of people haven’t seen, or don’t want to see.

(to be continued)

You Don’t Need An Expensive Education to be Successful, But It Can Help

Too many people get hung up on getting a proper education, finding the right school that can teach them what they need to know, and making the type of reputation that people will see as inspirational. Let’s point out the fact that:

  1. You don’t need to attend a prestigious university or college to be successful. I’ll explain in a bit.
  2. Other people can teach you what you need to know, but you need to be willing to learn.
  3. Good Will Hunting was right, you can learn more from your library than many classes can teach you during a semester, but the twist is that it’s all on you.

So, shall we get into it?

You don’t necessarily NEED college.

Granted, it helps, and it does look great on a resume, providing that you have an impressive GPA and have actually stuck to your guns and completed your studies. But one thing that any discerning boss should think about isn’t bound to be seen in the Education portion of your resume. What they need to look for, and what many of them do look for, is if you can ACTUALLY DO THE JOB. You can have the best grades in your institution, you can be at the top of every list, and have a spotless GPA, but you know what that means? Nothing, not diddly-shit. It means you were able to drop thousands upon thousands of dollars on an education that can teach you what’s expected, what’s coming, and how to pass tests and conform to a system that will grind you up and spit you out if you don’t have one crucial thing: experience.

I’ll admit it, I enjoy being one of those in college, I like the fact that I can put two or three different universities on my resume. But it doesn’t mean much if a person doesn’t have the needed experience for the job they want. Guess what General Studies or some other obscure study gets you if you apply for a job that has nothing to do with your popular but useless major? Nothing. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be employed even if you have the right major and degree since thousands to millions of people have found that college is not a golden ticket to a good life unless they have the experience to go with it. This is why internships and work experience in your chosen field are so necessary, because, without them, you’re another kid waiting for someone to give you a job just because you test well and know how to hand in quality homework.

People can lead you to success, but you have to want it first.

How much simpler can it be? Plenty of people want to be successful, but too many will come up with excuses why they’re not. “It’s not the right time” “I tried but no one’s hiring” or my personal favorite “This economy is keeping me down”. There are so many bullshit excuses out there to explain away why people aren’t successful, why they’re not where they want to be, and the simplest reason is that they don’t know how to recognize or grab hold of the keys to success even when someone is jangling them in their face.

But it’s not their fault, right? Some folks happen to think that the idea of ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ is a ridiculous saying, but the truth is that it’s one of the best things to think about when you want to find success and make it last. No one is going to do it for you, but thankfully there are plenty of people who will point the way, or guide you until that moment comes. But if you’re not into it, if it’s not your scene, and if you want to make excuses, then plenty of folks will drop you like a bad habit rather than waste another moment on a non-starter. If you’re willing to succeed, you’ll listen to those that have forged ahead, and you’ll learn from their mistakes as well as their successes. But you have to want it, otherwise, their teachings aren’t getting through that thick skull of yours.

Take hold of your own life, education, and the road to success. Listen, learn, and apply what you’ve been given. Otherwise, pray that your parents will let you live in their basement for the next twenty to thirty years.

My Spirituality? It’s the Story….But Many Don’t Understand

It’s not hard to guess why, because when someone asks you what your spirituality is, and you simply tell them that you’re bound to no religion, no faith, but that you believe in something that binds us, and that it’s the Story, they think you’re being a smartass, or that your intellectual elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top. In other words, people that don’t understand the concept of the Story are those that believe that their own level of intelligence and spiritual knowledge is greater than someone that would give what they see as a vague, noncommittal answer.

You’re right, it is vague, and it is kind of noncommittal since the truth is that the Story is far more than many can possibly grasp, especially given that it’s the core, the nature of all stories, the belief systems, the values, the religious experiences, and everything and anything a person could think of, that goes into this big messy ball we call existence. There’s a story for everything and sadly, as human beings, we feel the need to affix words to everything since this is how we tend to understand things on a very common level given our limited comprehension of how stories are told without using the symbols and writing styles that differ from one group of human beings to another. Everything from the unseen to the grandiose has a story to it, and that is the faith I cling to in this nutty world where there are so many religions that one can easily forget that they all derived from one core that would essentially bind us all together if people weren’t so intent on staying divided.

You can definitely go ahead and think that my adherence to the Story is childish, immature, vague, and perhaps even foolish…that’s on you, not me since I know my purpose in this world, and no matter what anyone says, it’s what I take joy from and feel is right for my own life. The Story is my solace, my haven, and if you want to look at it that way, my spirituality. At this point, I don’t care what others say, or if they think I’m a few brews shy of a six-pack. I know I’m nuts, I don’t deny it, but I revel in it since some of the best stories come from the chaotic depths.

If you find yourself lacking any real understanding or comprehension, maybe it’s time to examine your own values for a bit.

Writers Write…Let Them

A writer’s opinion is just as versatile as anyone’s, and more so in some cases.

A writer is there to write, not for you to criticize their mindset, or to say ‘you wouldn’t understand’. Writers are there to be open, to eliminate the barriers to one line of thought or another, and to bring one story or another to life. Sure, there are writers who will refuse to see one line of thought or another, we’re human after all, but assuming that a writer won’t be able to change their mindset or widen it to encompass different lifestyles and what they mean to people is akin to someone saying that ‘you’re this gender/race, you wouldn’t be able to understand’. Without the needed information, of course we won’t. But is it possible for a writer to learn? I did note that we’re human, so yes, of course, we’re definitely able to learn, to take direction, and respect the lifestyles of others.

Seriously, we can write about anything if we’re given the chance. You don’t want your life to be misrepresented? Then let a writer know what you’re all about, or write your story on your own.

Writers aren’t bound by opinion.

It doesn’t matter who a writer votes for if they’re open-minded, or what they feel is right. A good writer can open their mind to other venues of thought, perhaps not to agree, but at least to understand and comprehend. A great writer can write anything, no matter the point of view. Some might call this being shiftless, faithless, and without any true moral center.

Those that say such things aren’t quite as open-minded as they think.

A personal anecdote.

Not long ago I responded to a Craigslist ad for an individual that needed a screenwriter for an animated series. While the individual explained that he was an LGBTQUIA+ ally, and that he was firmly set against Donald Trump (not sure why that mattered since this is 2022, not 2020), and needed someone that could understand the mindset of a transgender individual as well as the LGBT community. In other words, this individual wanted someone that could think the way they wanted them to, and could adhere to what they wanted to see. In all honesty, wanting someone that can tell the story you want isn’t a bad thing.

But upon admitting that I didn’t care for President Biden, and did in fact vote for Trump, the pause in their voice became a little too obvious. Did I vote for Trump? Yes, I did. Do I like him? Not really, but it felt that he was the lesser of two evils at the time, much as he was when he ran against Hilary Clinton. But to be fair, I don’t care about this, because it doesn’t define my mindset. I don’t care about gender, about race, about skin color, or political affiliation. I’m here to tell a story, that’s my purpose and my goal. I’m a writer, a teller of tales, and someone that sees human beings, no matter how they identify, as human beings.

Quite honestly, the idea of rejecting a writer’s service based on who they voted for is a bit ridiculous. We writers are here to tell a tale, to continue the truths and fictions of our species, no matter how we need to think or believe in order to get the stories out where people can see them. Those that are hung up on finding someone that thinks as they do without seeking to help others understand their values and way of life are, sadly, those who have convinced themselves that inclusion is what they say it is, rather than the idea of sharing what makes us unique.

We are writers, and while belief is important, it is also fluid and versatile enough to accept more than one set of ideas.

Pay the Bill

No me diras como entraste. Al menos dime porque estas aqui?”

“I’m going to speak your language out of courtesy, and I’ll answer your questions in a moment. Bien?”

The gray-haired man nodded once, indicating that it was in fact okay. The way he was sitting up in bed made him look ridiculous as his flat, flabby chest shaped the nightshirt he was wearing. That wasn’t important though, the overweight, gray-haired Latino wasn’t armed, and had no weapon or ally close by. Laws had been broken and were he or any of his associates ever found tried, they would likely find themselves in a dark hole for the rest of their lives. But that implied anyone was going to care that the Sinaloa Cartel was gone.

Strangely enough, the neighboring communities would probably care, but he had an idea that deep down, they would rejoice that the people holding their lives in their hands were finally gone. Now the trick was to do something that the next would-be narcos would see as a sign that starting up another empire would be a very bad, ill-advised idea. Of course, plans were already set into place that would seek to set up a system that would replace what this man and his associates had accomplished. It wouldn’t be perfect, few things ever were. But it would give them back their lives, and seek to take the fear that that had become commonplace.

It was a hope that such a thing could happen.

“Your bill has come due Mateo. In fact, it was due nearly a decade ago, and you skipped out before paying.”

The man grinned at him, “You are not DEA.”

“No, no I’m not. And neither are my people. We’re just fed up, and we answer to a boss that wants this over and done with. That’s why we’re scattering pieces of your people all over the valley as we speak.”

The man didn’t pale, nor did he show an ounce of fear. Instead, Mateo de Cuervo looked amused. He’d expected this reaction, as those at the top didn’t think they were ever going to pay.

“The people will not like this,” Mateo said, stifling a yawn at the end of his sentence, “We have been protecting and building their economy for years.”

He wanted to grin so bad that it nearly came out, but instead he inhaled through his nose, deciding to keep up with the conversation for the moment. It would give his people a bit more time to carve up and scatter the pieces of Mateo’s men, who he didn’t appear to believe had been killed. That, or he just didn’t care.

“In ten years, the people might not even remember your name.”

Mateo smiled, “They will remember-“

“I’m going to tell you a story Mateo, and you’re going to shut up and listen.”

The older man betrayed his emotions as his brows lowered just a bit, not enough to be too obvious, but just enough to indicate he was not pleased. No one interrupted him, that much was obvious. No one even challenged this man unless they were tired of living, that was even more obvious. Life was full of surprises though, and he was about to deliver a few of them.

“Now then, back in 2014, when we really thought you’d spent your last day as a free man, something strange happened…”

(to be continued)

Something Worse (Part II)

2 years ago…

It was what they needed. An eight-bedroom home with five bathrooms, three living rooms, a den, a three-car garage that also featured a two-bedroom guest house right behind it, and plenty of open space as far as the eye could see. They couldn’t say no, and their financial situation was just barely good enough to make this affordable.

“It’s nice here,” said his sister, Annalina, “The air smells crisp, fresh. There’s no unnatural rot or decay, no exhaust.” Turning around slowly, Rourke had to agree. There were wide open, grassy plains all around, with wooded areas to the south and north of the home, while a gravel roadway ran for miles to the west side of the home, the only means of egress by vehicle, as Mr. Ogurzi had informed them that the fields were filled with enough pot holes and possible sinkholes to permanently damage or even swallow up a vehicle. It was an odd bit of trivia to throw out, but useful.

Rourke grinned uneasily as their (hopefully) landlord raised an eyebrow. He grinned as well, which meant he might have believed that Anna was being a bit melodramatic, or simply odd. Shooting his sister a glance that she didn’t return, but probably felt, Rourke opened his mouth to speak to Mr. Ogurzi. He was a rather severe-looking individual with a very pronounced widow’s peak and dark, jet-black hair that looked as though it was just beginning to go grey at his temples.

“What is the asking price again, per month?”

“Per month it will be three thousand, US dollars. I prefer US to Euro, personal choice.”

“The currency is no problem,” Annalina chimed in, “But is there any foot traffic around these parts?”

Rourke had thought to tell his sister to let him handle it, but thankfully she brought up a good point. Mr. Ogurzi’s grin widened into a smile, showing a glint of his very, very white teeth as he replied.

“Not really. In a given month you might see two or three people come down this road,” he said, pointing to the gravel road at the end of the driveway, nearly a hundred yards away, “But apart from that, look around you. This open country, owned by me, or by the county. The only ones to bother you around here are the animals, and even they make it a point to stay away from people.”

Annalina nodded, retreating to her own headspace again as Rourke spoke once more.

“You want first and last I assume?”

Mr. Ogurzi pointed a single finger at Rourke, “You would assume correctly, and therefore not make an ass of you and me.” he chuckled just a bit, “Sorry, bad joke.”

“No, no, I got it,” Rourke said, patting one hand in the air, “And I think we can swing that. Nine grand to buy into this place for first, last, and next month? We can do that.”

“And it is you, your sister, and another?”

“Two others,” Rourke corrected, “My daughter and our friend,” he motioned toward Annalina, “Renfro.”

“Ah, yes, I remember. So four in this big house? That’s a lot, but I’m not here to judge, I just collect. And make repairs when needed, of course.”

“We do tend to have friends over from time to time. Is that okay?”

Mr. Ogurzi nodded, “Yes, yes, perfectly okay. So long as they do not move in without notice, then it is perfectly okay. If they move in, the rent must go up due to increased occupancy. You understand?”

“Yes, I do,” Rourke replied with a nod, “And there will only be the four of us living there, but we do get a lot of visitors sometimes. Big family.”

“They may stay for a night or two at most, but anything else, I must know,” Mr. Ogurzi stated, his thick, Albanian accent coating every word.

“Then I think we have a deal, if you’re ready to write it up.” Rourke extended his hand, which Mr. Ogurzi shook readily as his smile widened.

“Indeed we do have a deal.”

(to be continued)

Something Worse (Part I)

Burning eyes in the darkness.

Bloody bits of his pack lying on the floor, a piece of a jawbone here, covered in hair matted by blood, a claw still attached to a hand, a squished mess that used to be an eye. Blood covers the left side of his vision, but wiping at it brings an intense agony that he can’t abide, and causes him to whimper as he continues forward, half-blind, in agony from a dozen different wounds, and wishing his body would heal itself quicker.

The clicking of his toenails upon the tile floor of the kitchen sound like gunshots with his enhanced, hyper-sensitive hearing, and he’s certain that the owner of the home will appear at any moment, the burning gaze finding him once again, as it’s found his pack throughout the sprawling mansion. Who did they end up pissing off this time? He still had no idea who, or what, this individual was, but the landlord had waded through them without so much as a pause, tearing them apart, literally, as though they were no more substantial to him than figures made of clay

No one had ever dominated them like this, not even the damned bloodsuckers. Even the horrid creations that had been pieced together by the legendary madman that had perished at the hands of one of his creations couldn’t top this current threat.

Part of Rourke was screaming at him to run, to get out of this place, to leave whoever was left and find another den that he could recruit, or to simply disappear. But Annalina, his sister, and Sarah, were still somewhere in the house, as was another of his pack, their connection to the human world, Renfro. He couldn’t leave them, if they were still alive. Rourke had yet to see proof that they’d met their end at the hands of the unknown threat that none of them had seen coming. He might be a fool to keep searching for them, but as he exited the kitchen, wading back into the shadowed hallways, he knew that he couldn’t leave without knowing.

Even as he glanced to his right however, Rourke felt his balls shrivel as two burning, reddish orbs found him.

“Good evening.”

Rourke tried to attack, to run, to do something, but that burning red gaze pinned him, and soon the dark swallowed him.

(to be continued)

You’re Offensive! I’m Offensive! We’re All Offensive! How Exhausting…

Honestly, this issue appears to die down every now and then until it comes racing back up, especially when an individual or a group is offended by something they’ve seen, perceived, or think is going on. Being offended has apparently become an American pastime, a hobby, and something that people actively try to do when they wake up in the morning. For some folks, going a day without being offended is a failure or a sure sign that they weren’t working against that imagined oppression hard enough because they weren’t offended by anything. The truth is that it means they were living their lives and not looking for an excuse to be pissed off about something.

Being offended is a choice, it’s not something that is automatically installed in a person’s mind the day they’re born. There’s a huge debate to be had about this matter since many people will gladly stand up and say that they’re offended for those that won’t be offended on their own behalf for one reason or another. The unfortunate truth for those folks is that the people they’re sticking up for might actually tell them to sit down and shut up if they were allowed to speak since like it or not, activists only make things worse when they get louder, as finding a way to change things from the inside with minimal amounts of noise doesn’t appear to be part of the program. When everything from a mild joke that in all honesty doesn’t bother that many people to bigger issues that can be solved if opposing sides sit down to discuss their grievances becomes a reason to be offended, well, then the issue is no longer what needs to be done to alleviate the situation, the issue becomes who’s really offended and how can that be fixed so we can get back to the real issue at hand.

Life is offensive to everyone at some time or another, and whether we like it or not, things are going to happen. Between human beings, life will never be perfect since we all have the freedom to say what we want, do what we want, and then deal with the consequences as they come. Granted, if someone offends you in a way that you don’t like, you have the right to bring it up and try to resolve the matter. But do you have the right to disrupt their life and the lives of others in a needless fashion? Nope, not really. If by disrupting someone’s offensive behavior you’re improving the lives of those around you and possibly teaching a life lesson, then more power to you. But the sad part of this is that perception is key in such moments, and many people think that by being offended by everything that they’re helping those around them, when in truth they’re just pissing people off for no reason. At some point, being offended by everything has to get a little exhausting, wouldn’t you think?

At the end of the day, we choose to be offended by things or we choose to let them go, and personally, I’d rather take a moment to think if something or someone has really offended me that badly that I need to make a spectacle out of it. Most times the answer is no, since to be fair, spending that much energy on something or someone that pisses you off without any long-term effects isn’t worth it.