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03.22.02 3:41 p.m.

The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.

 -Albert Schweitzer  

Previously in Xenology: I decide that I cannot be Kate's friend. We visit strange shops in Woodstock. M and I seem to be psychic. Dances with Bunnies uses a three hours psychology class to preach about outdated New Age concepts.

Your Turn to Save the World
One of my friends who works on Capitol Hill informed by that, to pass the Campaign Finance Reform bill through to the president, a series of votes were traded. The end result is that the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge will be sacrificed. The only reprieve is hordes and hordes of constituents protesting, calling, writing, and generally making it known that we do not want the government destroying the pristine habitat of innumerable species for some oil. So, go, be good people.

Fustigating a Moribund Equus caballus
I received an e-mail from Kate entitled "requesting an appeal" this morning. I didn't really wish to read it at first, as that felt like backtracking. I had said what I meant and I wished to stick to it. At the advice of friends, however, I read it. They stated that this was only fair to her, as we had once been very close. That I should know what she has to say, not that it could change how I felt.
One of the points Kate made in her letter was that she thought it was a possibility that we would slowly taper off to never speaking. I just cut to the quick, which seemed harsh to her. I'd truly like to think that in the long run, this is for the best. Nearly every time we spoke, we clashed. Ideologically, we had become opponents and were not sharpening our wits on the arguments of the other. It was jejune of us both, a record skipping with "You're wrong!" "No, you're wrong." ad nauseum.
Another point she tried to make is that I exaggerated her sex life, that it affects my life. She has been with three men since me. There is no exaggeration in this, this with what she admitted to me. Emily asked me when I spoke to her if this number was more or less than I expected. I became quiet for a moment, thinking, and said, "Both." But, ultimately, it doesn't matter. One of the only ways Kate's sex life would affect me is if I had any intention of sharing a bed with her. I don't, as should be obvious. I do worry that she is hurting herself psychologically, but this is applying to her the ethics by which I judge myself. I also worry that having sexual relationships that are not exclusive greatly opens one up to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. But, I would have this worry for anyone.
She may be right that I should have explained all of this to her prior to posting a journal entry about it, but that seemed counterintuitive. That I should speak with her explaining that I can't speak with her. I should make contact to tell her that we shouldn't.
Who she was and what we shared together will never cease to be special to be. I am different man than I would have been had I never met and loved her. I cannot imagine the life I would have led, but it would lack what she once brought to it. But, that is in the past and that is where it should stay.
We do not treat each other as friends should. We do not behave warmly to one another, unless I am trying to lie to myself and say this is the same being I was once in love with. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, "If is doesn't look like a duck or quack like a duck, the chances are, it's not a duck."
I know where I am not needed and, moreover, where is drains me to be.

Woodstock '02
Yesterday, M and I went to Woodstock. She exists in this strange realm where she has something called "a normal sleep schedule." I don't fully understand it, especially as I usually spend most of the night writing and reading. It's so quiet then and there are no interruptions, like other conscious people. To the point, she wished to pick me up at 10AM and there seemed to be no option for argument. I just pretended that I was taking a nap because I was going to be staying out really late.
Unfortunately, I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping when I am alone, ever since that one night with Sarah. Maybe it threw my circadian rhythms way off, though I tend to think there is likely slightly more to it than that. Having Emily there, next to me, makes me want to move a lot less, makes me feel safe and protected, and makes me want to stay in bed. Alone, my brain is far too free to think its way into a neurotic mess. As such, if issues are not worked out in my life or in the journal (and judging by the Soon in the Journal, that's not happening) I am left to obsess over them in an insomniac place where I am unable to do anything about them. Which, of course, just makes it worse. Sleeping pills do not often work on me. Usually, my body become hyperactive and massively distracted, neither of which would be conducive to sleep. And I always think, "Well, if I get out of bed, then all of this trying to sleep has been for naught. So I will just sit here and try to think of something calming." rather than, you know, working out the hyperactivity. And now you know way more about my mental state and sleep than you likely should.
So, I was hyper but sleep deprived when Emily picked me up. This served to make me a little bit psychotic, but in a nice way. I wasn't talking to people who weren't there, but my social boundaries were that much lessened. Thus, more likely to point out while in Dunkin' Donuts getting breakfast that their main clientele late at night would be the insane from the local institution and stoners. The cashier was not necessarily happy that I was announcing this, but didn't have the presence of mind to actually engage me in conversation, which would have shut me up because I would have been pleased to have provoked a reaction and spoken to a stranger. It doesn't need to make sense to you, it's my sleep depravation state.
The drive up was fairly uneventful, save that Emily accidentally went through an EZPass lane without such a device and we had to figure out what to do or face a $20 toll later for not having the right ticket. Evidently, this is a fairly common occurrence, and some man vaguely related with the tollbooth had us walk to the nearest booth and ask them for a ticket. Ah, useful.
We stopped for gas shortly before getting to Woodstock. Emily had this belief that gas would become much cheaper the further we drove and she finally conceded that gas is expensive. Owing to all the driving she must do between school and training, she spends about $45 a week on gas, a price that stunned me. That's almost half of what I make a week. When she returned to the car after paying, she was thoroughly disgusted by the dirty old man that was trying to hit on her in the station. Dirty old men, let this be a message for you, most attractive girls in their twenties think you are revolting. Some are black belts in Tae Kwon Do.
When we finally arrived, I was talking at a feverish pace, as I had yet to exhaust my sleep depravation hyperness and had absorbed all the delicious caffeine contained within a medium Pepsi. It's a good thing. I got out of the car chittering about how I was very weird and how could M like someone this bizarre. An elderly gentleman sitting in the parking lot started laughing slowly at this and seemed a little embarrassed that I noticed. I smiled widely and said, "Oh, but I live to be seen and heard, sir. That's why I speak so loudly." He smiled as widely as I had and I felt happy that I had brightened his day by having my life bump into his.
I decided, as Woodstock has an air of surreality to it, that I would make it my mission to find something that sounded unreal. Namely, moldavite, a stone that supposedly was found in meteorite that fell to Moldova several million years ago. It is bright green and rare. Sounds a lot like kryptonite to me, so I clearly needed to possess some in order to repel Superman from foiling my dastardly deeds.
Our first stop was a very mellow bookstore. They indeed had this meteor rock, but only attached to more expensive stones that were hidden behind glass. $240 is too much to stop Superman right now. There was only one piece in a cut form, shimmering green and purple, and it cost even more because it was soldered to a slab of a stone that was evidently worth a good bit. Emily and I strolled into the connected Buddhist/Hindu altar (all for sale, of course) and discussed this mission. Clearly the stone wasn't cheap, especially out of its raw form, which looked a little like green jerky. I still very much wanted it, though not glued to another rock and surrounded by gold filigree.
Further up the street, we were dismayed to find that one of our favorite Woodstock stores and Melissa's haven while skipping school in high school, Stoned Peaces, had been shut down. The sign on the door claimed that they had moved to a new location elsewhere, but we found no evidence of this in town.
We ended up in a store called Modern Mythology that sells more occult jewelry than I have ever seen in any one spot in my life. If there is a stone that exists only in Uganda, you can bet they have a statue of a dragon holding it querulously. I asked the pleasant salesgirl if they carried any moldavite. She thought for a moment and led me toward a case that had three large green jerky rings. Damn, still not right. Nonetheless, M and I ended up spending at least forty minutes in the shop, talking with the salesgirl about jewelry and silly Pagans. To her credit, she was a very sharp and sweet girl, and she dealt very well with us wanting to look at just about everything that was behind glass.
We wandered the streets more, seeking out quality goods, especially those that do not look like any sort of dried meat product. We learned in a bead shop that moldavite supposedly fritzes out alien implant from prior lives. I'm not exactly sure how alien implants are working these days, but evidently they can now follow into your next incarnation. Ah, useful.
Someone's been sparking some good Scientological ganja. And before the "Church" "of" "Scientology" decides that they should sue me (as they are so wont to do when people say that they are not the kings of kings), I would ask them to please remember that a good part of their dogma hinges on the concept that all evil is caused by crystallized aliens that were thrown into a volcano and now attach themselves to human. Furthermore, please remember that you advertise using a device described by outsiders as "two tin cans" that, properly wielded, destroys the alien implants. And that all prophets and philosophers (including Jesus) are reincarnation of the evil alien Xemu. And that it is a religion founded by one of the worst science fiction writers to have ever breathed. And let's not forget that John "Saturday Night Fever" Travolta is one of the highest members of your organization. So, really, the alien reincarnating implant zapping stone is just about as sensical.
The last time we were in Woodstock, there was this tiny store we found. I do mean we literally found it. There were no signs for it and it was hidden behind other buildings. Sitting in chairs in the front were a motley group of people deep in discussion. The occupants, who were gluing pictures to a box, said people only found the store through its vibrations. I had to agree, at the time, that it had a rather strong presence, as my hands were tingling madly. We ended up buying me a new hardcover copy of The Neverending Story though the store had no phones and was thus unable to accept my credit card. Clearly, we felt it necessary to rediscover this shop and were saddened to find it quite vacant when we finally did figure out where it should have been.
We also visited a shop that, ordinarily, is pleasantly scented by incense and is decent for a head shop. This time, however, M and I were overpowered by the scent of a rotting carcass. The woman watching the store seemed foul to us, though in no discernable physical way. She was vile and didn't want us there, though she said little. In leaving, which occurred quickly, I was more than a little sure that the smell had to do with why we were not welcome there. I can't at all imagine why this woman would not welcome us, as we physically appear to be the very epitome of their target audience. Which further leads me to speculate that she could see into us just as much as we could see into her and didn't like that we were not of her kind (whatever that may be).
Emily and I seem to get more attuned to one another in places supposedly (and falsely) peopled by the "in-tune." After leaving the shop, we were practically communicating totally mentally. She would start a sentence and I would see a picture in my head of exactly what she was about to talk about. She showed me several times that my vocalizations, while enjoyed, were unnecessary. Of course, I don't really know what that could mean either. Perhaps it is just the environment that attracts this sort that also fosters our nonverbal communication. Since I am inclined to think that our communication was still a form of energy, perhaps these places just amplify the energy. That seems credible, in a hippy, pseudoscience way.
We ended up having lunch at a small restaurant/bar. It was the closest to us when we got hungry. Proximity + hunger = lunch. It's very simple.
Our waitress seemed like she should be a much taller woman. I think her mind was elsewhere and that she didn't much like her job. As such, she was kind of on automatic until we started asking questions that didn't have preprogrammed answers. At least they were in context, about food and such, not about platypi.
For ease of cleaning, the restaurant had placed a large piece of paper over the table cloth. After Emily received confirmation that it would be changed after we left, she began explaining the problem of evil. Basically, there are four premises. 1) God exists, 2) God is good, 3) God is omnipotent, 4) Evil exists. Only three of these premises can be true at any one time. If God exists and is good and omnipotent, evil cannot exist. If evil exists, then God cannot possible be omnipotent and good. Bad things clearly do exist. The Holocaust, for example. What does that say about the concept of God? Emily's theory is in polytheism. There are numerous gods and they are not good or bad, like humans themselves. None can be wholly omnipotent, as there are other gods that act as checks and balances. Understand that this is largely armchair philosophizing. Conversing about concept that we can't possibly know everything about. However, we are in good company. M told me of St Augustine and how he thought that evil didn't actually exist. We are only humans, he reasoned, and cannot possibly grasp the divine plan. Still, I reiterate, why would a good go allow millions to die cruelly?
She told me how Elohim, the biblical god, is plural. Elohim is both El and Baal, two separate entities. El is like Elohim, Baal is El's son and is the first letters of a place called Baal Berith which was the capital of Hebrew trade and worship. They are also both the heads of the Babylonian pantheon, and where Hebrew's got their ideas on deities and on worship. This is at least a widely accepted theory, according to M. I was rather blown away with this. Certainly, having dated M this long and having had a brief stint in reading about ceremonial magick, I knew the basics. From what I gathered, Baal wasn't denounced in this culture as other gods were.
This moved into a discussion various mythology and societies. One of my points was that nearly every culture had a myth involving a large flood and there certainly had to be a reason behind that. Emily responded, using impressive logic, that three of the major cultures of ancient times (Babylon, Israel, and Egypt) lay on the Tigris and Euphrates. As such, a massive flooding of these rivers would lead to these cultures having such a myth and perpetuating it. Okay, fine. However, Australian aboriginals have a very similar flood myth and were certainly not exposed to these cultures. Emily could only say that there were no Australian aboriginals (her theory had to do with a fishing ship blowing off course from the Philippines a few tens of thousands of years ago, which makes them pretty aboriginal to me) and that there could have been drastic climatic changes that created a similar myth.
I asked her what she thought of the fact that several dominant, advanced, and powerful societies throughout history seemed to be polytheistic. She started drawing a rough map of parts of the world as I continued. For example, Egypt had technology that we still have trouble understanding (like how they built the pyramids so perfectly) while being surrounded by tribes that were living relatively primitively. The Aztecs also had vastly superior technology to their neighbors. Also Rome. Why did these people excel far beyond their nearby cultures and why were they polytheistic? Emily's answer was not full, as she acknowledged, but she stated that both Rome and Egypt benefited from becoming the hub of water transport and trade. They could discover the ideas of other cultures and improve upon them. Still, some of the accomplishment they achieved are still baffling scientists. We didn't have much of a clue about the Aztecs, as we didn't know enough about their culture. They didn't appear to be essential to trading, so they are still a mystery. We didn't even begin on Eastern cultures that were doing equally amazing things a few thousand miles away. I wanted some pattern I could discern, but I found none. Except for the fact that these cultures died out owing to less civilized but more tenacious peoples.
Perhaps most troubling to my attainment of a cohesive theory is New Guinea. According to Emily, they developed an advanced culture living in mountains, away from the ideas of other cultures. Settlers didn't bother them, as that would have required scaling these peaks. The New Guinean people were actually quite irritated when they discovered that the white settlers had developed weapons that were decidedly similar to theirs. Why did these people become advanced while being so secluded?
And, yes, this is what passes for light conversation between us. Theology and anthropology is fun for us college students. It's all we ever do most nights. Pop the cork on some champagne and discuss cultural relativism as seen through the lens of Eastern thought.
As we had clearly exhausted our allotment of mental energy for the day, we had to prove that we were still quite stupid. So we tried to write all fifty states on our table paper. We did fair to well up to about thirty. The last ten states took us at least ten minutes. Coming up with our final state added another five to our time. We asked the waitress which state she thought we were missing, but she was as baffled as we were.
There, now we are stupid Americans again. It feels good to be home.
We went back to the store where we originally found the moldavite. I touched some of the raw kind and it felt exactly unlike a stone. It turned out that it was a form of glass that was created from the heat of a meteor entering out atmosphere and only about a ton of it had ever been found on earth, all of it in Moldova. Myth had it that the Holy Grail was made out of "an emerald that fell from the sky" reputed to be moldavite. I asked the woman at the desk to take the cut gem version out of the case, though I stated up front that I had no intention of buying it and completely lacked the resourced to do so were it my intention. I merely wanted to feel it. She obliged, though I think she didn't understand my request. The gem felt right and I actually liked it quite a bit, but I wouldn't be buying it now.
While walking up to the good stores again, M saw a very sexy, purple velvet bodice in the window of a store next to a large sign that read "Sale!!!" Well, who can question that? M tried it on and she really did look quite delectable. She said wearing it made her feel very sexy. I responded that was because she is very sexy. Who can question that?
As we were close, we ended up back at Modern Mythology. The salesgirl seemed happy to see us and announced that she had found more piece of moldavite, though it was still the raw kind. Still, we looked around and conversed with her. Emily was looking for a new pentacle, as she felt the time was right (especially as she had found pentacles very similar to hers in the jewelry case here). I was just looking, wanting to buy something but having not found the right item. I got tired of calling to the salesgirl by "Miss" or any other title. I asked her what her name was. Without a second's hesitation, she responded, "Lindsay." See, had she hesitated, even for a moment, I would have known that she was just being nice because we were customers and talkative. But it was instant. I introduced M and me, just as quickly.
Lindsay and M started talking about opals. Lindsay offered that some people think opals are bad luck because they manifest the energy of the wearer. As these people were thinking negatively, that is was occurred in their lives. Trust me, it sounded completely credible coming from her lips. I looked to M and whispered/psychic-ed, "Maybe it isn't such a good idea that I keep Buddha Dragon (a miniscule carved opal that looks like a happy dragon on two legs with a big belly) with the demon ring (um... it's a long story. Basically, I have a ring that has very bad vibes but it can block out silly Pagans and strange energy when worn for a little while. Trust me, this too sounds credible if you actually speak to me)?" M confirmed that I likely had a good point. I took the ring out of its little wooden case and put it in my change purse (I am confident enough in my masculinity that I can admit I have a change purse). I began unconsciously looking at the various lockets, while still thinking about the Buddha Dragon. Then my conscious mind caught up with what I was doing and decided it was a good idea. I took the little statue out of the box and asked Lindsay to open the case. I tried the opal in various cases, seeing which one he fit in and which one I liked. I finally settled on a small, silver locket with a labradorite face carved into it (I have a penchant for jewelry with faces, as M knows). I didn't really have a purpose for it, but it seemed purposeful despite that.
We began walking again as I mused my purpose for this item. It finally dawned on me that I should write small wishes and thoughts that I want manifested in my life on bits of paper that I place in the locket with the opal. This seemed to make sense, given the reality construct to which I subscribe. I researched later and discovered that labradorite is perfect for this purpose, according to metaphysics. Supposedly it is a transformative and works with the subconscious mind.
While we walked, Emily started getting a strong impression of a handbag she wanted. She didn't know quite where is was or if it even existed, but she could describe it well enough that I thought we had a chance of finding it here. We went to the Buddhist store, where they admired my star pendant that doesn't have an origin. They didn't have the right sort of bag for her. Then M decided to check in the store next to Modern Mythology. I was happy, as this meant that we would get to see Lindsay again. I had felt bad for not making any lasting contact with her, as I thought she was one of those rare interesting people you heard so much about from me.
M searched, not quite finding the bag she wanted. However, there was one that said Avatar in oriental font and a burlap/hemp one with a picture of Buddha sown on. Neither was perfect, though she was fond of both. Then she saw a smaller hemp bag that had a stylized, rainbow Ganesh on it. I knew that she couldn't possibly resist this and handed her the money to purchase it.
While M did this, I snatched a card from the stores register and wrote my web address on it. I figured it was the ideal way, as then Lindsay could look around this page (you know, for a few days). We walked up to her and gave it to her, and she seemed happy to receive it. She said she had just started going on-line and never had a good place to go. Now she can come here and be bored by my talking about New Guinea.
I felt that we had accomplished all of our missions. I had gotten a new, kind of magical item that I was going to use. M had gotten an amazing bag. And we had made a new friend. It was a good day.

Bunnies Bending Silverware
Last week, I convinced Emily to observe half of my class with Dances with Bunnies. I was in psychological pain because the class so far had been painful. More preaching from the mount about New Age ideal that even fell out of favor with the New Age community ten years ago. She reiterated the discussion of ley lines from the last class. I informed her about Coral Castle in Flor-i-da, that was built entirely by an immigrant in the course of a few months using no tools. There were stones weighing several tons that were so perfectly balanced that they could be moved by one's pinky. When the man lost his rights to the property, he moved the entire structure five miles away within the course of a week. All he used was a truck to move an acre worth of meticulously placed stones. He would only move them at night and some young boys said they spied him carrying these immense stones with his own hands. When reestablished, every stone was exactly as it had been before. He never revealed why he made this structure or how and it is still a mystery of science. DwB was confused, as she clearly had never heard of this. Another student offered that the stones were so perfectly fitted together that the blade of a knife could not pass between them at any point. DwB gave a blank look, as I think she hated it that someone knew something spiritual that she didn't. Finally, she spoke again, acting as though she had just taught the class about Coral Castle and speaking how amazing it was to see, despite the fact that she had just said she never hear of it. I shot her daggers (let's see her fit them between some stones).
Soon after this, she said that we should bring in spoons for the next class and we would bend them. Not with the power of our minds like Uri Gellar who, if I recall correctly, was debunked by James Randi a decade ago, but with our hands. No, seriously. We would use the power of our minds to bend the spoons with our hands. Now, forgive me if I am wrong, but can't most people bend spoons with their hands? I do it frequently while scooping hard ice cream. Even the few silver spoons my family has.
After hearing this assignment, I knew that we were in for a very long lecture with immensely dubious scholarship about the power of the mind. I cozied myself up in my seat and read a few chapters in Summoning Spirits. It says a great deal about her class when reading a book about making noncorporeal manifest on the physical plane makes a great deal more sense than the teacher. Though, it should be noted, the author is Konstantinos, whom I tend to respect anyway.
When M came in, the class was supposed to be discussing family trees. As this was an optional assignment (as all are in this class) and it was directly related with validating DwB's theory that non-genetic things are passed down in families, I had not done one. Emily felt I should anyway, she we quietly started mapping my family out. The only conclusion I could come to was that I was less social with the males on my mother's side. Then I realized that is because they are not the sorts of men that are very open, emotionally. However, several of them were husbands of my blood relatives, so that is meaningless. Well, it wasn't as though I thought the theory was credible to begin with.
One of the members of my class started telling how his uncle had once said he had levitated. This bizarre adult student in my class said, "Oh, yeah. Levitation is a lot more common than most people know. Especially when you are meditating." M and I looked at one another and tried to stifle laughter at the ridiculousness of this statement. Where, exactly, was this woman getting information from? I mean, I attribute abilities to jewelry and have seen a UFO, but people do not levitate on anything like a normal basis. It isn't as though one closes one's eyes and relaxes and suddenly discovers that they are several inches in the air. It should be noted that this is the same woman to loudly told us to be quiet because we were working on my family tree and the woman who, upon hearing about a very abusive, alcoholic, and violent family, announced, "Oh, I don't have to do mine, he's done it for me." Clearly an attention seeker with a hero complex for DwB. This could be scary.
However, now that M has seen my class, she knows that I am not at all exaggerating the goings-on therein.

Soon in Xenology: Simpsons trivia. Spring break. Letters from Sarah. Stigmata. The church and religion. Existing on certain planes of reality more than others. I slip on a kiss and tumble into love.

last watched: Stigmata
reading: Sacred Contracts
listening: Ten
wanting: an additional consort.
interesting thought: You only love in others what you love about yourself.
moment of zen: finding something that was searching for me.
someday I must: run around outside all night.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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