Yoga Driving Tips

Remember, a relaxed driver is a safe driver.  And the best way to relax is to take a deep breath and close your eyes.  Put on some New Age music if you have any, preferably Ravi Shankar on the sitar or George Winston if that’s more your bag, something you can easily drift off to.

In order to fill your lungs to their maximum capacity, push your abdomen out as far as you can while inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose.  Make sure to undo your seat belt so your diaphragm muscle can descend and your chest cavity takes in as much air is it can hold.

Your feet are crying out to be liberated.  Can you hear them?  That’s good.  That means you’re attuned to the music of the spheres.  Now your toes can finally feel the gas and brake pedals underfoot.

It’s time to stretch your arms and legs as far as they can go.  Feel the blood tingling all the way up and down the length of your body?

Let go of everything that’s been burdening you for the past few days, weeks–even your whole life.  Let go of your fears about the future and the steering wheel.

Try not to get attached to the squeal of tires against the pavement or the screech of other drivers’ worn-out brake pads.  Don’t feel you have to judge other motorists swearing their heads off at you.  Let them work out their own unresolved issues themselves.

Soon you will feel oneness with them.

Just live for the moment, knowing it can’t last long.

Who knows?  You may never get another chance to be present again.

It’s For You, Hamlet

The phone call’s for me?  Hmm, that’s funny.  Thanks, Horatio.

Hello?  May I ask who’s calling?  Dad, is that you?  Your voice sounds strange.  Aren’t you dead?  What’s up with the phone call?  I thought you people were supposed to rest in peace. . . Of course the funeral was sad.  Why wouldn’t it be? . . . Yeah, I know she got married only a month after you died, but who could resist a guy like Claudius?  Mr. Super-Stud. . . . Dad, there’s no need to become apoplectic.  Just chill. . . You’re going to have to slow down.  I can’t follow your train of thought–you’re spluttering too much. . . Take a deep breath. . . What?  He poured poison in your ear?  What for? . . . I know, I know–stupid question.  So why are you telling me this? . . . You want me to get revenge? . . . But how can I be sure it’s really you?  Can’t you show yourself? . . . That’s not how ghosts operate these days.  Figures. . . So I have to go on a phone call. . . You always told me never to trust someone who tries to sell you something over the phone. . . Hey!  There’s no need to shout.  Keep your jaw attached to your skull, Jacob Marley. . .  I guess that reference is a little too advanced for you. . . I know it’s irksome that she married your brother. . . yes, yes–and your murderer–I was just getting to that. . . how is it incest?  He’s not her brother. . . That’s right–I forgot.  We live in the Elizabethan world. . . Okay, so what’s the best way to kill him? . . . Any way that works. . . But just not while he’s praying.  Thanks; I’ll make a note of that. . . Put on a play that recreates your death?  Dad, don’t you think you’re being morbid? . . . Of course I want some evidence that he really did it. . . What do you have against Ophelia?  She’s perfect for me. . . She’s daddy’s girl, eh?  At least she’s not a windbag. . . All right, Dad.  I’ll do what I can.  But between you and me, I have a hunch this isn’t going to end well. . . Yes, I look forward to seeing you soon, too.  I love you, Dad.  Tell God I said hi. . . He changed his name to Satan?  Well, you’ve got to admit it’s a more marketable alternative. . . Don’t go changing. . . Father, compose yourself! . . . Okay, sorry–bad joke.  Keep in touch.

Here’s your phone, Horatio.  No, no.  It was a wrong number.

Thanks to Bob Newhart for the idea.  His autobiography, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!, is worth reading.  I’ll share a couple of anecdotes from it in another post.

Martin’s Dream Revisited

(In an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like turn of events, moments before he delivers his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s body is hijacked by an invisible alien visiting from outer space, transforming him into Martian Luther King.  Let’s hear what he has to say.)

Martian Luther King

I have a dream that one day little black girls and little white boys will walk around crouched over handheld devices.  And each device will contain its own individual jingle.  And businessmen dressed up as cowboys will sing, “Ain’t you glad you’re single?”

I have a dream that one day people will be locked up not because they’ve committed armed robbery or murder, but because they’ve become hopelessly addicted to an illegal drug.  I have a dream today!

I have a dream that in a time not too far from now, cities will go bankrupt and banks will burp from the bellyaches they receive after eating those same cities.

I have a dream that wars will be fought not against fascism or imperial threats, or even to protect nations from terrorism, but to ensure that those self-same threats endure until the end of time!

I have a dream that leaders will no longer feel accountable to the people who voted them into power, but to the lobbyists who bankroll their election campaigns.

I have a dream that great nations will become oil-sucking vampires and drain the earth of that resource, spilling pools of blood in the process.

I have a dream that mining companies will blow the hell out of the prodigious mountaintops of Appalachia to feed people’s bottomless appetite for creature comforts and high-tech gadgetry.

I have a dream that people will rise up and protest on the weekends the same policies that their labors and leisures during the week help perpetuate.

I have a dream today.

So let freedom ring if your phone battery’s still alive.  And let drunken general managers of mighty weapons firms sing in karaoke bars with lampshades on their heads as they grope for the shapely backsides and bosoms of their repelled and unwilling secretaries.  Then, under the watchful eye of the all-seeing international security state, let us join handcuffed hands and say, “Me at last, me at last, thank God all whitey, we are me at last!”

 

Dr. Helpful, Supershrink

Coping With Guilt

(Scene:  A psychiatrist’s office.  Two somber yet plush burgundy upholstered leather chairs with a coffee table in between them are the main pieces of furniture in the crimson-carpeted room.  The walnut walls are bedecked with certificates from prestigious universities that bespeak the doctor’s unimpeachable qualifications, while framed letters from distinguished patients she’s cured attest to her impeccable track record.  There are also some signs conveying some of her prevailing sentiments for the edification of her visitors.  One reads, “Absolute power assuages low self-esteem.”  Another proclaims: “The need to love yourself is the greatest gift of all.”  The legend below a picture of a frowning pixie-faced girl in a blue outfit suggests, “Only you can make you feel blue.”  Finally, near the entrance is a full-length poster of a clown doubled over that says, “He who laughs last laughs hardest.”

The doctor is in the middle of a therapy session with a regular patient, Macbeth, King of Scotland.)

Doctor

Can you tell me about the dream you had?

Macbeth

I was surfing on a tidal wave of blood.

Doctor

Good.  Describe the surfboard.

Macbeth

Well, at first it was black, then it turned red.  Then it morphed into a shark.  Only he didn’t have fins.  And he had Banquo’s face.

Doctor

Banquo-shmanquo.  I don’t want hear that loser’s name ever again.  Do you understand?

Macbeth

You asked me to tell you about the dream.

Doctor

Indeed I did.  But sometimes white lies are just what the doctor ordered.

Macbeth

How was I supposed to know that?  Doctor, you look so restless.  Can’t you have a little patience?

Doctor

Of course.  I must have had one too many espressos this morning.  So, tell me what else is inside your head.

Macbeth

I can’t sleep at night.  When I close my eyes, all I see is an hourglass full of human skulls raining down and forming a mountain.  The racket is deafening.  It just seems to get louder and louder.  The skulls at the bottom are crushed like seashells while the ones at the top get bashed in by the new tumbling skulls that smash into them.  There’s also a hole at the bottom of the hourglass with sand made of bones leaking out into a spreading pool of red.  The skulls just keep falling like coins raining down in a one-armed bandit whose player has hit the jackpot.

Doctor

Hmmm.  Strange.  Have you been taking the sedative I prescribed?

Macbeth

Yes, I have.  It only makes the nightmares worse.

Doctor

Mr. Macbeth, as I’ve told you before, you’re suffering from a guilty conscience–still!  What in the Sam Hill is wrong with you, man?  I mean, lighten the hell up for a change, would you?  Do you recall what we said last time about conscience?  Remember the line from the movie On the Waterfront?  You know, the scene where the priest played by Karl Malden is talking to Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy about his conscience?

Macbeth

No, I don’t.

Doctor

“Conscience–that stuff can drive you nuts.”

Macbeth

I’ll have to write that one down so I don’t forget.  (Writes in his diary.)  See Doc, that’s another thing–I can’t remember anything anymore.  Since I can never get enough sleep, I’m unable to process new memories.

Doctor

What are you talking about?  You remember your dreams.  In loving detail, I might add.  Unless you’re embellishing them to flatter your medical mentor.

Macbeth

Fair enough.  But the only reason I remember them is they’re incessantly recurring nightmares.

Doctor

Oh, come on, Fergus.  You have lots of phantasmagoric variety, a veritable treasure trove of nocturnal hallucinations to choose from.  I want you to keep taking the medication.  Double the dose if you have to.  Remember what we said, after all:  “Health equals wealth.”  By the way, did you send me another check for your last visit?  The first one you sent bounced right out the window.

Macbeth

Yes, I did.  You’ll have to excuse the bloodstains.

Doctor

(wagging her finger)  Ah-ah-ah, my dear king of the blues.  Don’t forget:  “Success means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Macbeth

Sorry–I keep forgetting.

Doctor

(rolling her eyes and sighing)  Oh, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey.  What ever are we going to do with you?  All righty, then. I’d like you to close your eyes. . .

Macbeth

Okay. . .

Doctor

Take a deep breath. (Macbeth inhales deeply, pushing his stomach all the way out the way his yoga teacher showed him to.)  Excellent.  Now repeat after me:  “Color red. . .”

Macbeth

“Color red. . .”

Doctor

“. . . is for the dead.”

Macbeth

“. . . is for the dead.”

Doctor

Perfect.  Now exhale until your lungs turn inside out like unsightly clusters of poppable seaweed.

(Macbeth releases a long, slow breath, his hands loosely gripping his kneecaps.)

Doctor

Very nice.  Now open your eyes.  (Macbeth opens his eyes.)  And say in a big, strong voice:  “I am not the bull.”

Macbeth

“I am not the bull.”

Doctor

“I’m the matador.”

Macbeth

“I’m the matador.”

Doctor

“I hold the red blanket.”

Macbeth

“I hold the red blanket.”

Doctor

“And the bull drops dead.”

Macbeth

“And the bull drops dead.”

Doctor

Very good!  (The doctor’s intercom on the coffee table buzzes.  She leans forward and presses a button on the device.)  Yes?

Secretary

Barack Obama’s on the phone.  He thinks he might have accidentally left his kill list behind during his last visit.

Doctor

(keeping a straight face as she pulls a piece of paper out of the breast pocket of her red suit jacket and flashes it at Macbeth, whose eyes widen and jaw drops.)  Tell him I’m afraid I haven’t seen it.

Secretary

Okay, I will.  Thank you.

Doctor

Ciao.

Macbeth

The president of the United States has a kill list?  May I see that?

Doctor

Sure.  (She hands it across the table to him.)

Macbeth

Wow!  It’s long.  How many pages is this?  (The doctor shrugs.)  What a great idea!

Doctor

Go ahead–keep it.  I’m sure he can retrieve all those names if he uses the mnemonic devices I taught him.

Macbeth

You’d think he’d have at least one extra copy for back-up.

Doctor

There’s nothing that’s certain but death, taxes, and human error.  (The doctor and Macbeth share a hearty laugh.)  There now.  Feel better?

 

 

The Needy Deity

(God finds Abraham tending his flock and approaches him.)

God

Abraham, Satan said you love Isaac more than me.

Abe

That’s not true, God.  You know you’re my number one, my one and only, my main squeeze, as it were.

God

I don’t believe you.  And you don’t believe in me.  (God starts crying.)

Abe

God, baby, please don’t cry.  What can I do to make you feel better, sweety?  I’ll do anything.

(God looks up shyly with teardrops clinging to his eyelashes like early morning dew on blades of grass.)

God

(coyly) Really?  Anything?

Abe

Anything, Goddy-woddy, for little old you, poopy-shoes.

God

That’s so sweet.  Would you even kill Isaac for me?

Abe

What?!  I’m not going to kill Isaac!  He’s my only son!

God

All right, hold on a sec.  Okay, okay, okay.  I know that sounds like a lot to ask.  I’ll tell you what, Abe.  What if I make a deal with you?

Abe

What kind of deal?

God

Let’s say I agree to kill my only son–

Abe

What do you mean?  You don’t even have a son!

God

Surely you jest.  You, Sarah, Isaac–you are all my children.

Abe

Well, maybe figuratively speaking.

God

So let’s say my wife and I have a boy a little later on in the story–

Abe

Wife?  And who exactly would that be?  I didn’t realize you were married.

God

Stop interrupting, asshole!

Abe

Sorry.

God

I promise you I’ll eventually have a son and have him killed for you, okay?  Then will you bump off Isaac?

Abe

God, you’re a psychopath!  Why would you do such a thing?  And why is it so important to you that I slay my son?  Are you out of your mind?

God

No, I’m just God.

Abe

Like the oxymoron.  Besides, even if you did make a son and kill him for me, you could always squeeze out another one afterwards.  For you it’s a snap.  Me, on the other hand?  I’m 752 years old.  Sarah’s only a few years younger. If I knock her up again, our baby would more likely resemble Cerberus than the fine boy I’ve already sired.

God

Oh, Abie, you’re no fun anymore.  Remind me to rub out any president named after you.

Abe

Fine.  Just please don’t make me murder my son.

God

Thou art such an ingrate.  All right, I’ll tell you what.  I’ll make a deal with you.  Either you brain Isaac with a rock or unseam him from the nave to the chops with your sharpest knife, or I’ll sic a swarm of man-eating bullfrogs on you and have them devour you and your whole family.

Abe

Jesus Fucking Christ, God!  You are the biggest putz I’ve ever met.

God

You know the old song–“You Always Hurt the One You Love.”

Abe

You’re the one who wrote it.  Very well.  Give me a time, date, and exact location and I’ll do the kid in for you.  But after that, no more bullshit.  Are we clear?

God

Oh, Abraham, you are the most adorable little mortal I’ve ever given birth to.

Abe

And you’re the most insecure, emotionally manipulative, uncompromising fascist in the universe.

God

Oh, Abie, behave!  I love it when you play hard to get.

Abe

Go fuck yourself, Yahweh.

(Abraham leaves, cursing under his breath and stamping the ground like a spoiled child.)

God

Don’t forget to know thyself well too, Abe!  And tell Sarah the big guy in the sky says hi!

Abe 

Tell her yourself, wanker!

 

(Thanks to Louis C. K. for giving me the idea for this story.  May God bless him and his two daughters–without making any unreasonable demands of the conscientious father and busy comedian.)

Prey to Fraud

1.  Remote Control Freak

 

We bow our heads in prayer

to one who is not there.

We offer up our hearts

to that which is apart.

His virtues are so great,

we gobble up the bait.

Please feed us what you want;

we’ve given up the hunt.

A freely roaming flock,

we don’t believe in clocks.

And everything you say

will get us through the day.

There’s something about lies

that makes us feel so wise,

Allergic to the truth

from infancy to youth.

We no longer develop

as Jesus us envelops.

Still-born in ignorance,

we bask in impotence.

But he will make us rich–

son of a fucking bitch!

 

2.  The Fall Guy

 

Drink this brine, for it is my blood.

Eat this lead, for it is my body.

And after you’re done eating me,

go kindly brush your teeth.

And don’t go under the apple tree–

the snake pit’s underneath.

You’ve killed my ass so many times,

I can’t forgive you enough;

your species is made strong by slime–

don’t give me any guff.

But if you believe people

can rise up from the dead,

go nowhere near that steeple

and get outside your head.

You’ve got a knack for lynching folks,

a tried and true technique.

I’ve got no more time for your jokes–

go find another geek.

Breakfast With Frankenstein

Here are two short stories for you.

Stormageddon!

The sky explodes with thunder.  I open my eyes.  I’m drowning in sweat.  Maybe the sudden incontinent burst of rain will finally slice open the belly of the fire-breathing tick that’s been sucking the life out of me for the past two months, replacing the air with a hint of autumnal cool, and everyone can start actually being cool, walking around wearing shades like Yves Montand and speaking fluent French, quoting Camus and Sartre and Baudrillard.  Unable to go back to sleep, I pick up a book on atheism and consider sharing a page with my students.  It’s a risky move.  A few of them are religious and might complain behind my back.  My wife appears, praying obsequiously, and tells me to read the Bible.  I tell her I will, keeping a straight face.  She says this kind of storm has never happened at this time of year in Korea before.  I tell her it’s due to global warming.  Nay, she neighs:  it’s payback time for the Savior.  The human race is toast.  And don’t even think about adding butter or marmalade.  The bread done be burnt to a crisp.  I roll my eyes across the floor into a pair of socks.  Beginner’s luck.

Breakfast with Frankenstein

“Hi, Mom!  Hi, Dad!”

“Hey, Frankie,” said Mom. “Sleep all right?”

Doing his best Tom Cruise imitation, the boy cocked his head to one side, closed one eye, and pointed at his mother, saying, “All right, and all night!”

“Very funny, son,” said his father, Dr. Normal.  “Or at least it was the first time you said it, before the other twelve billion times.”

“Mom?  Dad?  Was I adopted?”

The boy’s mother’s hand flew up to her mouth.  Horror filled her eyes.

“Frankie!” she cried.  “Why would you say such a thing?”

Frankie shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Maybe because I have bolts in the side of my neck, green skin, and a scar that runs all the way around my flat-topped head.”

“That’s just a halo, Frankie,” said his mother, smoothing his hair down for school.  “Jesus had one too.”

“I hope I don’t end up like that poor son of a bitch.”

Without warning, Frankie’s father swatted him with a rolled-up newspaper.

“Hey!  Why’d you do that?” Frankie rubbed his temple.

“Sorry, son.  I thought you had a fly on your forehead.”

“Just for that you’re grounded,” Frankie’s mother said to his father.

“Aw, honey,” he said.  “And I was planning on going to the red light district tonight.”

Rod Serling, the narrator, entered the kitchen and said, addressing the television-viewing audience, “Excuse me.”  Then he turned and asked Mrs. Frankenstein-Normal, “I’m sorry to interrupt, Ma’am.”

“And I’m sorry to tell you that there is no smoking in this house.”

“My bad,” said Serling, putting out the cigarette in Frankie’s hair.

“Ouch!” said Frankie.  “I’m a monster, and I deserve to be treated with respect.”

“Pardon me, Frankie,” said Serling with a politely simian grin.  “I thought this was the Three Stooges.”

“What are you doing here, anyway?” Dr. Normal asked, glaring over the lenses of his bifocals.

“Allow me to explain,” Serling continued.  “There’s a writer’s strike going on at the network, and I was just wondering if I wouldn’t be imposing if I hit you up for some bacon and eggs.”

“Damn right you’d be imposing, you goddamned communist!  Why don’t you go find your own bourgeois kitchen and obedient Stepford Wife to cook your breakfast for you?”

“Very well, sir.  But I should warn you that your wife’s planning to hit you over the head with a frozen pork chop when your back is turned, then feed it to the police.”

“Mommy, may I go to school now?”

“Yes, Frankie.  Don’t forget to bring your Bible.”  She turned to her husband, “Actually, I was planning to use a lamb chop, but I guess I’ll have to go back to the old drawing board now.”

“What for?” Dr. Normal asked with tears in his eyes.

His wife smiled enigmatically, a twinkle in her eye worthy of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha in Bewitched.

“She wanted to get even for your crack about going to the red light district.”

“It was a (bleep) joke, honey!”

Serling asked, “May I?” and poured himself a bowl of Frankenberries.

“Ha ha,” said Dr. Normal.  “I saw that old episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents too.  And I read the Roald Dahl story it was based on.”

“Remind me to fine you for reading in TV Land,” said Serling.  Addressing Mrs. Frankenstein-Normal, he added, “And do me a favor and stop reading the Bible.  It’s bad for your eyes.  Besides, our sponsors can’t afford to have sitcom characters quoting Scripture to one another.  It’s not so much funny as droll, and it lowers the ratings.”

“Get the hell out of my house!” cried Dr. Normal.  “Or I’ll summon the Rottweiler.”

“That won’t be necessary,” said Serling.  Inhaling deeply, he shrank himself so that he was no taller than a toothpick.  Then he withdrew a cigarette from the pack he stood beside on the table, which was the size of a bank of phone booths.  He lay the rolling death-stick on its side and mounted it like a surfboard.  

Closing his eyes and tilting his head towards the ceiling, he prayed, “Dear Jeannie, please invest me with the power of flight so that I may soar into your arms once again.”

Faster than a subliminal message flashed during a commercial aired in a smear campaign against a rival candidate by a Republican presidential hopeful, Serling surfed away on his cigarette, swooping past the heads of his suburban assailants, who tried and failed to snatch him in their hands.

As the I Dream of Jeannie soundtrack emanated around them, the doctor asked his wife, “Hey, where’s that music coming from?”

Mrs. Frankenstein-Normal said, “I don’t hear any music.”

Her husband shrugged, took a sip of black freeze-dried coffee, and said, “Oh well, must be losing my mind again.”

A laugh track ensued, letting everyone who was watching them at home know that everything was going to be all right )as long as they honored the one commandment of broadcasting:  Don’t touch that dial).

“And that’s the name of that tune.”  Robert “Baretta and acquitted wife-murderer” Blake