Death is an Advisor

My writing has changed; I have changed.  I use to see myself as an originator of thought, then I moved into what some might consider old age, in the last year—-and concluded I am only a promoter of what is good.  There are a thousand things in a day, a million things that match what I have done in my life, and more.  I have done nothing.  We all have “profound thoughts”.  But now, after only a few weeks of trying to come to grips with who and what I am, nothing, and everything—-I need to push on with my life, to live it as though I won’t be here tomorrow.  Life is terribly short so live it as such.

Now it is time to give away what I am not using—-to give away what sits around my house like monuments to myself, on shelves, in drawers, on desk tops, awards, photos, souvenirs, decorations, things that reflect what I think or want to believe I am.  I need to be free to walk where I want to walk, to be whatever I think I am, to read whatever I wish to experience when I am still to learn.

Dena Cavins would have my place cleaned out in three days.  She is the consummate junk dealer.  I should pretend that her spirit is within me until this place glows like a rental owned by a renter who has left his home in the kind hands of a neighbor who CAN take care to keep things in simple but neat order, indefinitely.

How ironic that life is so long, and then it is gone as though it was never any more than Spring snow.  Pretend it won’t be here tomorrow, because it is just that way.  And in the meantime, let it be everything that it can be.  That is the only way to live.  Death is an advisor in life, as Carlos Castenada would say.  So make your choice like you don’t have another day.

Death is an Advisor

A Crisis in Faith: It’s a Good Day (Part XI)

I would like to say this is the last installment, the conclusive blog to one month of involved effort, detailed documentation—really more like 8 months if I included the first wave of stress that washed over me last September, the first indications that I was embarking on the potential of a prolonged trial.  But, it is life.  So the story proceeds though it transmutes now from experience to knowledge.  The value in all of this was, for me, and hopefully for those who have bothered to follow the story, how does one take a trial in life, a mess of a situation, and mill it into a palatable lesson of the soul.

The emotional side of me has led me into the temptations to let this situation get out of control, but I have watched so many crime/drama TV shows and if I have learned anything from that, it has been not to let a moment of stupidity pull me more deeply and inextricably into the drama.  I have found that as I express my hostility and frustration, there are lots of well intentioned people who will empathize, and project their own anger and exasperation, and their empathy presents lots of paths that are not always the wisest.  And I must always remember, no matter what solution is offered, I have to find an answer that is congruent with my own nature.  Don’t ever apply someone else’s solution to your own problem—-that’s a good way to end up in deep and troubled waters.

I went over to the house much earlier than I told Randy I was going.  I wanted to make sure I was there from the beginning to the end of the supposed move.  I am glad I did because I did not expect to see Donna and Randy working like a couple of beavers removing the remainder of whatever debris they had in the house of value to them.  The house was in pretty good order except for a couple of dings and nicks in the walls that I discovered later, concealed by stickems and pennants pinned to the walls, obvious signs of temper and conflict between the two of them.  The yards looked great (mostly thanks to Felipe) and despite normal dust, dirt, and cobwebs, in the nooks and crannies of the house, things were fine.  A few things of minor value were missing.  In the big picture of the house, those things were insignificant—-a fine lace table cloth, an old microwave, a refrigerator door handle.  Who knows what else.

They assured me they would have everything cleaned by the end of the day.  I slipped off to get a load from storage in my effort to begin reclaiming what was once my home, but when I came back, they were long gone, cat food tossed out on the ground for the flies and for people to walk around, the house was littered with the worthless things they no longer wanted, and the house was left as I would have expected, needing a thorough cleaning, though no serious damage.

House 2
My new little VW Jetta station wagon designed for travel. 

And that was that! It’s been 8 days now, and I have not heard hide nor hair from Randy and Donna who have disappeared like shadows into the night, she with her pain and narcotic issues, in a trailer somewhere with daughter, he in a motel room probably along old highway 99 along the Western Pacific train tracks, renting a room by the week.  He’ll do fine; he has his electrician’s skills.  

Lisa Guzman from National Hardware and her crew of women locksmiths were out to change all the household locks before the moisture beneath Randy’s rental truck tires had even evaporated.  I think Lisa was hoping to run into Randy, just so he could see that his life was no secret, that people do take note of the part we play in the community.  I think crime is always easier to commit when there is no social accountability.  Within 18 hours, Felipe’s daughter, Patty, my housekeeper, had the house glowing. My friend, pack rat, moving and yard sale specialist, Dena Cavins, then helped me with one hearty load in her mother’s big pickup, clear out the rest of my things from storage.  In the meantime, Felipe had replaced the slit screens on Kate’s place, installed a security gate outside her door, and hooked up motion lights so Kate could go from the street all the way to her door via illuminated pathway.  Next will be bars over the windows for her peace of mind.

Locksmith 4
Lisa, Laura, and Sandra, lock smithing (Rachael outside working on doors)

In 24 hours, this place went from looking and feeling like a Spring storm had swept through to the comfy, neat and secure home it once was.  Now it is about taking inventory, re-organizing, re-stocking, getting the bills on automatic payment, changing some personal habits as though I am on this plane for the long haul.  I think I might even change a few doctors and re-join the gym.  It feels good.  

For the record, I did see an attorney.  He made it very clear how to go about making a small claims against Randy and Donna in the event that I should seek justice or remuneration of any kind, and possibly make a case why Randy should be back in prison.  It involves some effort, some footwork, but now I can do whatever I choose in my own time as I get re-organized and it won’t seem so overwhelming to pursue.

House 3
Kate’s new security gate

So, today, I enjoy the sunshine, the singing of the purple finches, the NCAA final four, as I relish the recent success of the Warriors as the playoffs near, and a day of peacefully piddling.  I’ve got my Netflix, can catch up on the last two seasons of House of Cards, and in general be thankful for the things I do have: health, a roof over my head, a positive attitude, friends, family, and enough of an income/investments that I can absorb this temporary setback.  Yes!  The sun was always been just behind the clouds, as I suspected.

A Crisis in Faith: It’s a Good Day (Part XI)

A Crisis of Faith, Lost in Vicissitude (Part X)


Sonora 6 copy
I dreamed about a snake I was trying to catch with my hands, but I couldn’t see whether or not it had rattles.

I race over to my house, hoping that the police are there when I arrive.  For some reason, I was thinking they would spend a few minutes examining the scene and asking Kate a few questions.  I am also thinking they might knock on Randy’s door and ask him a few questions.  It was still quite dark as I pull up to the house.  There was no sign of the police.  It appears that most of the lights are on in Randy’s residence and the security gate is wide open.  I go straight to the rear of the premises to check on Kate, who is visibly shaken.  She narrates her story, explaining that somebody was peering through the windows with a flashlight, and then a face appeared in one window, which she could not get a good look at because of the gossamer curtain and the screen.  As soon as she turned on her bedside light, the intruder absconded.

We go out outside and take note the screen has been slit and folded back in the window above the evaporative cooler, where a chair has been slid up against the cooler in order to reach the window more effortlessly.  There is a plastic box with a lid on it, sitting off to the side about 10 feet away, which at the time I ignored.  According to Kate, the police looked around the back of the studio apartment and didn’t see any more signs of an attempted break in.  They got another call and told Kate that since her landlord was coming over, they were going to leave and check on their next call.  One of the police said they saw one of the lights come on in Randy’s house, but they did not investigate what he might know or might have witnessed.  They left without leaving any report.

I told Kate I was going to remain out front, in my car, until the sun came up so she would not feel quite so vulnerable in the dark.  I went around to the front of my house and rapped loudly on the door trying to get Randy to respond.  I tried calling Randy on his cell phone.  I went to each window and tapped on the windows, calling Randy’s name.  Nothing, but there were at least four lights on in the house.  I debated whether or not to go into the house but felt uncomfortable.  I decided to wait out front in my car and watch the house because I suspected Randy was in it, and I did not want him skulking off the moment I turned my back.  At one point, I saw the bedroom light go off, so that was all I needed to confirm he was in the house.  I tried banging on the door and calling his name some more, but still no response.

By 8 AM I called Donna and told her what was going on.  Did she know where Randy was? Should I check on him.  According to her,  he had been drinking a lot lately so maybe he was in the house passed out.  I asked her if she wanted me to check on him and she said yes.  I decided to call my friend Vali as backup, a witness,  and moral support before I went into the house to assess the situation.

When we went in the side door I called Randy’s name and he responded from the sofa in the living room.  He seemed to be coming out of a slumber and asked what I wanted.  I asked him why he hadn’t answered the door and he said he had just gotten back from the hospital, that he had to go to the hospital the night before for some stomach condition he had.  I did not see how he could have slipped into the house the moment I went around back to knock on his bedroom window, but he insisted that he had just arrived.  What about the lights Randy? He didn’t know.  “I have no idea”, he stated in his usual defense.  Ignorance is always his best plea.  He stuck to his hospital alibi.

I explained to him what had been transpiring with the attempted break in and Kate’s fears/concerns.

“Well, why didn’t she come to me? We’ve always had a good relationship.”

“I guess some of that trust has been broken, Randy”.  She knows about your record and all the trouble that I am having, and about you using her rent money to pay the utility bills you’re responsible for.  Maybe that’s why”.

“I’ve never done anything to her”.

Randy and I walked to the back to look around.  I walked over to the plastic box and asked, “what’s this?”

He opened it up and said, “oh, hmmm, these are some of my tools.  He [the burglar] must have gone down into the cellar and snatched these [to break into Kate’s house?].  Let me put them back”.

The cellar door was closed, latched shut, and had a stick neatly placed in the latch to secure it.  That seemed strange because I had just gone into the cellar the day before and I had left it unlatched, let alone with a stick in the latch.  This seemed like Randy’s M.O.—-neat, organized.  And why would a burglar work to get into the cellar, pry the heavy door open through an entanglement of grape vines, go in, take a plastic box to burgle with, then close the door behind him, a not so effortless chore, THEN find a stick to secure the latch?  The usual Randy mystery, nothing making any sense.

We went back into the house and I told him I wanted him out within 24 hours.  Vali sat and listened as our voices rose in opposition to one another.  I was hot.  He said, “what are you going to do, rough me up?”  Pacific Heights flashed through my mind.  “I know my rights!” he insisted.  I get my mail here; this is my residence legally.  Don’t start threatening me”.  He made it clear to me that we agreed he would have until Friday the 24th.  I relented a little.  Vali began mediating.

I insisted that I wanted him out.  I told him that I was sure he was the one trying to break into Kate’s place.

“Why would I do that?!” he countered.  “I have a key to the front door.”

“Randy, I have no idea why you do anything that you do.  There never seems to be any rhyme or reason.  Randy is Randy.  Randy’s mind works like the pathologically disturbed, like a pathological liar.  For all I know you were drunk or high and just staging a burglary because you know I may take you to court and accuse you of stealing the pesos and the ring, and you are going to say, anybody could have broken in and then use this break in as an example of how common break ins are in our neighborhood.  Maybe you were going to commit some crime against Kate, maybe you were just drunk and having another pathological moment.  I don’t know Randy; You have me completely mystified.  I don’t think like you.”

“I’m not leaving before Friday; you gave me till the 24th”.

Vali and I depart.  Vali goes home and I sit in the car to think.  Whether or not I get the house back within 24 hours or by the end of the week, I am still not certain whether or not to turn this into a legal issue, and if so, where to begin.  I think of my appointment with the attorney.

I am thinking now, the biggest issue is getting him out of the house.  At least for the time being, cut my losses and get him out of the house.

I decide to call big brother Ron again and get his follow up thoughts.  We must have talked for another 30 minutes.  Ron began playing devil’s advocate and asking me questions I really didn’t want to hear.  Neil, you are dealing with a pathological liar, so that is your starting point.  He has been that way since he was a child.  He was born a liar and has lied about everything all of his life.  If he can fuck something up he will.  Yes, he has a criminal record.  Yes, he is on parole, but the police already knew that when they went out this morning to investigate the attempted burglary of the studio apartment, and they didn’t do anything; they knew there wasn’t enough.  You could take him to court and it’ll be your word against theirs, the whole case is circumstantial.  You’ve never caught him in the act, you have no video of him in the middle of a crime, there’s no contracts, no witnesses, etc, etc.  Is he guilty, yes, absolutely.  I know Randy.  Is he worthless, white trash, yes.  Is he redeemable? I used to think so, but not any more.  Is he “normal”? No, he doesn’t feel any empathy for you.  Neil, I’ve gone through this before, with other people and with Randy.  I am going to give you some advice, but you don’t have to take it.  You need to get your house back; that should be your highest priority.  People like Randy and Donna will come into your life and ruin it if you allow them to determine your path of action.  They live in a world of high drama, and they survive by manipulating everyone around them.  They will pull you into their world like a vortex and you will be swimming for your life expending all your energy trying to get justice, remuneration, trying to break even and in the meantime you have stopped living your own life on your own terms, you are no longer doing the things that mean something to you, that give you joy, the things you’ve always done in the past that had made you feel good about life; everyday will be consumed with thoughts of how to deal with them and there will be no end in sight, no guarantee of what the outcome will be, and even in the best case scenario, Randy will end up back in prison, where he belongs and where he will do best, but you won’t see a penny, because he lives in an all cash world and he lives out of hotels, always on the move.  Get your house back and get on with your life.  Don’t let them dictate the terms of your life.

Everything Ron said was pretty much what I was already thinking.  He was really only validating what the choir already knew.  It made perfect sense to me though I could have thought to myself he was the smoothest salesman I’d ever met (maybe along with Randy) and he had just sold me on letting his brother off the legal hook and I had been duped by another Bock.  Maybe it was both: he was as smooth as cake batter, but he was also right.

I walked back up to the house, Randy opened the door for me and I sat down in front of him.  I told him I just spoken with his brother.

“I know; I could hear the conversation.”  For a moment I thought I saw something real in Randy—just for the flicker of a moment, like a flash in a gold pan.  He said, “I am sorry I have let you down…” but then he couldn’t stop there “…but,” he stammered.  “…but I didn’t try to break into the studio apartment…” again he was diverting blame and denying responsibility, but for a flickering moment, he almost felt something.

And I thought to myself, “almost.  He almost felt genuine remorse, if only for a moment, but he just couldn’t bear the truth and quickly buried himself in another lie.  I told him he had till Friday, and I would be there at 5 PM when he got off work to make sure he was moving out.

A Crisis of Faith, Lost in Vicissitude (Part X)

A Crisis in Faith, Oh, Randy…(Part IX)

Sonora 30 copy

I got to thinking about Randy as a neighbor and remembered that when I first met him he was without a driver’s license because it had been suspended.  At the time, I assumed he must have had a DUI on his record, and in order to lose his license he must have had multiple offenses.  Or maybe something happened while he was driving under the influence.  I also remember him implying that he had  “done some stupid things” in his past and I interpreted it as maybe drug abuse was in the mix of his past behavior.   At the time, none of this registered very deeply with me—becoming a renter of mine had not yet entered my thoughts.  Obviously, it would have made for some good red flags for most people.

A former tenant of mine in the back studio presented himself to me as an articulate, intelligent, and responsible guy, so much so, that I thought, “wow, this guy could be a personal friend”.  I had gone through at least 15 previous applicants, none of which held a candle to the guy I finally selected.  I should have known that working a new job in a chicken factory, pushing chicken guts down a conveyor belt, 10 and 12 hours a day, six days a week for minimum wage was an indication that there might be something a little incongrous with the profile he projected and the guy who was signing the rent agreement.  Plus he rode a bike to work because his driver’s license had been revoked. That tenant, nice guy that he was, turned out to be an unmitigated alcoholic who would start slurring his words and ultimately turn comatose once he settled into his drinking; his parole/probation officers were always showing up in threes, wearing flak jackets, treating him a little like a feral beast, which I did not like.   Though this guy had the potential for challenges as a tenant, especially when it came to his women friends and drinking, he was willing to pay rent in installments to make sure he had the money due in total by the end of each month and he was respectfully quiet and ordered.  But compared to this existing tenant, Randy came off as a rock of equanimity and as wholesome as the good citizen Kane.  With Randy, I felt whatever he had done, he had paid or was paying his dues.  He was employed at a good job, he was sober every encounter I had with him, he was polite, respectful, and seemed remorseful about whatever past he had.  I tend to forgive because I appreciate being forgiven.

So I was sure now, there was some record on him.  What I did not expect was that, in addition to the thing I knew had to be there, maybe alcohol related arrests, was a flagrant posting and alert for a crime that got him 4 years in a federal facility! I do not want to give specifics; I will leave this up to the reader’s’ imagination.  I do not want to be a sensationalist and I do not want to stir the vigilante spirit in people because it seems easy enough to do and the only person in the end that this will hurt, is the person (or people) who allow this spirit to be provoked in them.  But at the least, I felt I had the leverage I needed to move dear Randy out of my beloved little home.  For $29.95, I could get a total print out on his record, but I felt I had enough, and did not feel compelled to spend another $30, at least for the time being on adding to the list of crimes he had committed.  Primarily, I was weighing two things when I took the entire ordeal into consideration: One, how much peace of mind is this going to cost me trying to seek,  at best restitution, though possibly a degree of justice, or maybe just a small cup of sweet vengeance; Two, what are the chances I could even win a case against Randy and Donna based all on circumstantial evidence (few receipts, my word against theirs, no contracts), even in the remote possibility that I would ever receive a penny in compensation; three, how long would this drag the entire, onerous affair out, keeping my attention tied to the things that mean least to me in life—-expending valuable energy and time over petty losses (in the big picture of life) rather than getting back into my house, re-grouping, and hitting the higher road of continental or world travel where a potentially much more gratifying path awaits the soles of my boots.  On the one hand this is a practical issue, on the other, it is a great practice in striving toward peace of mind.

Regarding principle, some of you may remember not too many weeks or months back, I wrote something on principle, when I was in Bulican.  I told a trike driver to eff off when he tried to raise the price of the ride he provided us by 100 pesos ($2) for taking the wrong route, the longer route, even when I told him “no, it is not the shortest, easiest way”.  When I refused to give in to his demands out of principle, he ended up kicking Tin Tin’s mother and little brother off the trike and I had to pay 250 pesos to find them a new ride home late at night.  At that moment, I thought to myself, never do anything out of principle.  The bottomline to everything should be, how does it affect your inner being first (did you let your ego get involved?), and your outer life second, your moral stand third.  Principle always ends up costing a lot of time and money and you will be the only one that learns a lesson.  (I’m smiling).

But now I was sure I had the leverage to move Randy out immediately and I was determined to pay him a visit the next day.  That night I called his older brother, Ron.

“Oh, that Randy, not again!” he wailed over the phone.  I could hear his wife in the background vituperating against the brother Fredo, in The GodFather Part One.  Would this be the incident that led Michael to having Fredo escorted in a rowboat out on the lake under the auspices of going fishing?   Would this be Fredo’s last trip because of one too many transgressions against the family?  

I was hearing words and the fragments of phrases being exchanged such as “worthless”, “pathological”, “liar”, “he’s been bad in the past, but this is even new heights for him”, “four years in prison”, “have tried to help him”, “he belongs back in prison” and on and on.  If nothing else, it gave me further reassurance that I was not and had never been chasing a red herring in final judgement, once my suspicions about Randy (and Donna) tipped 51%.  He even used the term “stupid” to describe Donna, which was in line with what I had been thinking for some months.  Stupid is one of those words that has a lot of different meanings, depending on the one doing the interpreting.  To me, stupid means, ignorant.  She certainly struck me as ignorant.  But I think he meant low I.Q.  I sensed an I.Q. in there, but it was obfuscated by a mind lost in a cloud of narcotic deadness.  After speaking with Ron, I was at least comforted to know I had been duped by someone clearly pathological, who believed without a flicker of compunction, that everything in their world was good and right…and it was—it just didn’t align with my world of what was good and right.  

All was fine until my cell phone began ringing (frantically) out of the charger at 5:15 AM. the next morning.  My young tenant in the studio apartment, I will call her Kate, was beside herself, telling me someone was trying to break into her studio apartment.  She had just called the police.  I leaped into my clothes and shot over to the property as fast as my little VW Jetta stationwagon would transport me, wondering, now what the hell is going on? This already sounds like the type of irrational epileptic behavior that might somehow, someway, for some reason, come out of Randy…

A Crisis in Faith, Oh, Randy…(Part IX)

A Crisis in Faith, Tipping Scales (Part VIII)


Locksmith 2
Lisa Guzman, owner of National Hardware and former employer of Randy B., was there to help.  

I felt pretty confident that Randy was going to keep his word and be out sometime Friday, after work.  I had nothing credible to go by; his word was worth nothing, but the 24th of March was the date I had given him when I returned the end of Feb. so I felt it best to stick with that.  In every conversation I had had with him, he seemed to adhere to the commitment of that day and date.  Legally I knew I had no rights because Calif. law states that if he is receiving mail at that address then his occupation at that address was legal.  Everybody and their brother tries to play attorney for me and tells me what they would or would not do regarding the police, insurance, kicking his ass, lawyers, evictions, etc, but the one fact that I most often heard from the most knowledgeable people always had to do with the mail coming to the address.  From there it was about taking action to legally evict someone which was a 30 to 90 day process, but that won’t be confirmed as fact until tomorrow.  


I remember the movie, Pacific Heights and how the tenant drove the landlord to rage, that moment where insanity becomes the norm—because is not the norm of expected rage and insanity the same?—until after months of endless exasperation, the landlord lost it and beat the tenant within an inch of his life, much to the tenant’s delight, only to, in turn be sued, and lose the property and everything he owned.  It was the tenant’s way of accumulating property.  


There was really no reason for him to leave except that I was beginning to come into the house on a semi regular basis, after knocking abruptly on the door, to alert him of course, and make sure I wasn’t setting myself up for a lawsuit—or that I might be shot dead in a case of mistaken identity.  Plus, his girl, Donna, was no longer there, and I kind of felt some of the feathers from his wings were missing their sheen in the absence of her moral support.  I have no idea why, but he struck me as a man who needed a woman in order for him to stand, like a beanstalk needs a stake.  The more intrusive I became, coming everyday, allowing my presence to be his pressure, I sensed the more he needed to be active toward seeking an alternative.  


But no one who knew my story and the situation believed Randy was going to be out by Friday.  This was a little unsettling to me—-the unanimous opinion of the multitudes that I was in for another challenge, the long, slow recovery of my home because Randy had no intention of making this easy and his word was feeble at best.  So for this reason, I set into motion an appointment with an attorney to assess my options.  In the meantime, I decided to head out to Randy’s former employer, Lisa at National Hardware, and speak to her in person, since I suspected from what Randy had told me that Donna had tried to motivate him to sue her for worker’s compensation, since he claimed he was unfairly dismissed.  I was never clear on exactly what was going on at National when Randy narrated his side of the story, but I believe Donna was encouraging him to pursue compensation.  Now, with what I was experiencing with Randy, his employment-employee story didn’t seem quite so square and solid.  


When I asked for her, and she overheard me at the store counter, her attention cautiously lit up.  Once she was free of customers, she took me out back to an area of privacy and we introduced ourselves.  She smiled as I began expressing my concerns about Randy.  It was a knowing smile, like “yeah, good old Randy”.  


We must have talked for 45 minutes.  She asked me if I knew his brother and I told her that I vaguely remember him coming by the apartments next door to pick Randy up at one time.  I won’t say they are the spitting images of one another being that they are at least five years apart, but they sure look alike.  Randy’s older brother, Ron, evidently is the psychological antithesis of Randy.  Ron is a very successful business owner in the Central San Joaquin Valley and owns at least a half dozen furniture stores.  He is involved in the church, and as I sense, is a man of faith and seemed to have good insight.  But I have been off on my assessment of people before.  He is not close to Randy, but has been diligent in helping him “reestablish himself”.  In fact it was Ron who had gone to Lisa, owner of the National Hardware to see if he could get Randy a job there because of his background in electric work.  According to Lisa, Ron had even found Randy the apartment (next door to me) and helped to rent that for him.    


My thought was, “reestablish himself?” What the hell does that mean, Lisa?  She told me she was not legally at liberty to say, but that I might want to get online and do a little of my own investigative work.  Really? Well this was starting to sound interesting.  She had Ron’s phone number and told me that I needed to contact him asap, that Ron would probably want to know what kind of trouble his passively intractable younger brother was into now, or getting into.  There was always the possibility that Ron would want to intervene on Randy’s behalf, though I was thinking, why? If Randy leaves a path in his wake cluttered of need and incompetence for others to always clean up, why would anyone be enthusiastic about stepping up and bailing him out again.  It sounded to me like the wont of a drug addict, seemingly never able to rehabilitate themselves no matter what the cost they put friends, families, volunteers, and strangers alike through.  Lisa called older brother Ron, and left him a message, and then gave me his number and told me to at least talk to Ron so I might get some ideas.  
My next move was to get online and print out whatever I could find on Randy for the sake of leverage if push came to shove regarding the house AND so I could at least arm myself with whatever information I could on him for my own sake, albeit, after the fact in my own case.  Wow! Did dominoes begin to tip!  

A Crisis in Faith, Tipping Scales (Part VIII)

Crisis in Faith, Part VII

There is another reality beyond what we see with our eyes. You have to feel your way into that reality with your heart. There is no other way—Kaderbhai, in Shantaram.

It was such a monumental blow to finally, utterly and completely, realize that someone you trusted and believed to be honest, though unreliable when it came to debts, could look you in the eyes without blinking, as lidless as a sad snake eel’s eyes, motionless within the sand,  and lie without even a cell’s worth of compunction, without the faintest quiver because in some mysterious, contortionist way of rationalizing, they believe their own fabrications.

Snake eel AJ II copy

 I was dumbfounded.  Strangely, a wave of calm passed over me as I realized that all my imaginings, fears, and self doubts were now over.  There was nothing left to discover.  It wasn’t me.  I did not lose the money, I did not misplace the ring, I had not imagined moving the flatscreen TV’s with Randy’s help into the storage unit,  Randy was no longer ever going to pay rent again no matter how much he reiterated that his tax return was going to be there next week and it was going directly to me because he would never screw somebody out of money he owed them.  As he said with total conviction, “you’re gonna get your money”.   But all these things in direct, unequivocal opposition to his truth had really happened as an event in space and time and I was a personal witness to it, no one could make a better judgement of the event than myself.  His words were going where they really belonged—-on deaf ears as units of energy with no weight or measurement, empty as darkness itself.    I felt a little like I was a blue belly lizard, lying on a slab of lichen-spotted granite in the Spring sunshine, carefree.  It was finally knowing and accepting the truth rather than clinging to some hope that somehow it was all going to work out—-that’s where the jailer’s key was, accepting.    Now it was just a case of encouraging Randy to move on, as it would be, gently, firmly.  That should be easy enough.  All my surprises were finally behind me and now it was just about patience and trust.  As my old football coach used to say: pride, poise, and pressure.  I would win this game even if I was outscored 35 to nothing.   

west.spiny V copy


I realize now that I put the ring in Randy’s trust because it was my way of saying, “I believe you Randy; I am convinced you are an honest person”.  Wow, what a price to find out otherwise.  As one of my dear friend’s heavily implied, “YOU ARE A STUPID, STUPID MAN!”

My response to that, “Yup, I guess so.  Now share with me something I am not discovering for myself.” (-:  You put a loaded pistol in the hands of a child and you say, “I do this because I trust your self control and judgement, Son, (even though you are still a child with a child’s mind in a child’s reality}.   We’ve talked about how a loaded gun can hurt somebody really, really badly, so even though you are tempted to shoot someone you really, really dislike or think is bad, you’re not suppose to”.  Well, you put the opportunity to abuse responsibility into a weak man’s hands, and you should not be stunned when he acts weakly.

Again, I think of the Standing Babas.  I think of ascetics who have renounced the world. I see them as enduring suffering way beyond anything I know, not because they are caught in circumstances, but because they can and will.  I see them as a sort of beacon to remind people who are receptive to their lessons that for the light of God, we can do extraordinary things.  Yes, I could choose to see them as wasting their God given lives for nothing that makes sense to my understanding of things, but I don’t choose that.   I want to believe there is profound purpose to their path.  

I chose to meditate.  I wait until there is a little hunger in my system and I am alone.  I desire no distractions.   I take my pipe and find a quiet place where I will go unnoticed.  I pinch a couple, small resinous buds between my finger nails onto the the pipe filter and determine all I need is one small draw from my pipe, and I can easily slip into a mediation, for all the external stress I have been feeling for the past couple of weeks, months really.  My body and mind are ready for some answers.  There is only one way to take that journey…to see, and that is with the heart.  

Whatever is at our core, it is surrounded by what we have come to call the ‘ego’.  The ego is what keeps us connected to this plane.  There is probably an infinite number of ways to see how it anchors us into our biology.  Like an atom, we can build whatever model fits our imagination—-it will work as a metaphor for something that goes beyond the power of words, but still satisfies our desire to conceptualize it.    In experiencing life and the world in (intellectual) concepts, as we are taught to do with language, we in essence, frame a cage around ourselves that makes the world manageable, but the price of that protective cage is that we cannot “fly”—we remain earthbound.  Letting go of the ego is allowing everything that we wish to experience as a concept or emotion to dissipate, trusting that we can “freefloat” safely, that we will not crash and burn when we leave the protective shell of what we know as as our humanness.   This is the only way I can describe meditation as I have come to know/experience it.  The deeper one is capable of going into this state, the more profound the experience.  It is the ecstasy, the bliss,  that the sages have described over the centuries.  In letting go of the ego, i.e. the concepts and emotions that define humans and biological life, it is replaced by electromagnetic energy that is either consciousness or it is the medium in which consciousness exists or travels.  I experience it as the consciousness of God because there is no knowing, no experience of love greater than this that I have ever experienced or of which I can conceive.  Maybe it is the Holy Spirit.  But there is a knowing in it.  This is seeing.  It is the reality the wiseman Kaderbhai speaks of in Shantaram.  Short of a miracle, there is no other way to experience it, but through meditation.  And in it comes visions.  In praying for an answer to this Crisis of Faith, I have glimpsed the forces at play, and was lovingly reminded that we are only the potential of light that can be “gathered”, a metaphorical or literal harvest of light.  It is the collective of all this light that creates, feeds, sustains, the ethereal plane just beyond our material plane.  We call it Heaven or Nirvana.  Nearly forty years ago, in my desperate search for “God” I inadvertently found myself experiencing a sort of portal to this plane.   It was during this time that I was completely knocked out of my intellectual understanding of the world, knocked out of my busy, cluttered mind, for instances long enough to glimpse what were unimaginable truths to a guy like me.  It did not alter my human emotions, my human “form” so to speak, but it poured a vision on me that I could never forget…it became my faith; it gave me the strength to be Leo Neil Fletcher, flawed and weak, like Randy and Donna, and Clarissa; it has allowed me to fuck up time and time again, and get back on my feet, and keep moving (into the light) because now it had become tangible to me, it was all the “proof” I ever sought in order for me to believe.  

The chronology of my account is no longer important.  The story has taken some new twists, but I am no longer going to attempt keeping the days and times aligned with with order of my experience.  I have tried to come to grips with the purpose of this trial.  There is just too much I do not comprehend in the big picture of things.  I would like to say there is a purpose to why all things happen, but sometimes I think it is up to us to give something purpose.  We can choose to find whatever we wish; I am convinced the purpose of all this is whatever resonates most closely with what and who I am, , what I wish to be, and where I wish my path to take me.

With the disappearance of the flat screen TV’s, I emphatically did not wish to bear any more surprises and I feared Randy was not going to just peacefully relocate.  My losses would never be recovered in terms of cash value, so I have been forced to find lessons worth the monetary value I lost; I see it is happening.  The ring had much sentimental value—until now, I thought that it was irreplaceable, but again I am wrong.  

I decided to take action and not sit back and wait for the next surprise.  I needed to find out my rights and what action I could take to reclaim my home and stop further bleeding.  I went to an attorney referral and set up an appointment with an attorney, which happens to be tomorrow, Wed.  And I also went to Randy’s previous employer to find out what her relationship had been with Randy and what her assessment of him was.  I found a loose thread and started pulling, and suddenly, one thing started leading to another…. 

Crisis in Faith, Part VII

Crisis of Faith, Lies (Part VI)

  Tuesday morning I couldn’t wait to get out to storage and see if the TV’s had vanished the same way as the ring.  It was the moment of truth.  After Donna’s shrieking denials before leaving for Oregon, I had concluded that she was in fact the culprit.  Randy was just stupid, in denial, and irresponsible.  I had concluded with 99% assuredness that Randy was not the liar in this ordeal. (I always leave myself 1% to allow for the extraordinary or miracles).

I couldn’t get the lock on that storage unit open fast enough and slam that sliding door open.  The sofa and recliner were gone and I had an open view of the goods remaining to me.  TV’s, TV’s, where are you?  Ah, iMac there you are—-miracle!   TV’s, TV’s where are you? Son of a bitch, he took them! That son of a bitch DID take them after all.  My god!  I was absolutely floored to realize he stole my two flat screen TVs at least $500 a piece to replace them and now, who knows what else.  A couple of weeks ago I asked him if the TVs were still there and he gave this cryptic answer, “whatever you had in there is there”, like saying your guess is as good as mine.  I came back to the U.S. for the ring and the two TVs thinking those were my most valuable things to a thief and that they might steal and sell them (pennies on the dollar) if they knew I was coming back.  I felt rage swell into my heart.  I had finally gotten to where I was going to let the ring go and felt settled that I also finally knew it was Donna, and not Randy who for some reason I had so much wanted to believe.  The TV’s knocked everything askew.  All truths as previously conceived were shattered like a precious, delicate crystal vase into a thousand splinters, all bets were off, once and for all.  There was only one person who had the key to the storage unit, one person who knew the TV’s were there, one person who had helped me move them in.  It was Randy! I give up trying to understand Donna’s part in all this—-I didn’t even care any more.  All I knew now, irrevocably, once and for all, was that I was dealing with a pathological liar and his counterpart, Donna, no matter what her involvement.  Some horrible fantasies flashed through my mind how I was going to deal with the likes of Randy.  Donna I could take care of later.  A pathological liar….had I ever dealt knowingly with a pathological liar before? It was a new, profound experience.  At some point I had contacted Gordon Olson, my go to guy, younger father figure, wise man, my stable outer ego.  “Gordon,” I told him.  “I don’t think I have ever dealt with a true, pathological liar before”.

“Neil, Neil…” (as though Mr. Wizard was speaking to Tutor Turtle, reassuring him that he could come home—-from his fantasy any time he wanted), “What about Clarissa? You paid for the birth of her baby and she had not even given birth? You didn’t realize she was a pathological liar?”

“NO!” I insisted,  “that was different! She would smile, when she lied to me! She knew I was just a soft touch and couldn’t say no! She knew she was lying.  Randy and Donna didn’t; it was a truth to them that they did not steal the pesos, the ring, the televisions—-that’s the difference between a pathological liar and simply being a consummate liar in a world where a handful of pesos makes the difference between food for the week in a warm, but dry dirty little room and walking the corridors in the rain thinking about milk for the baby.  In fact when I caught Clarissa in her biggest lie she never denied it—-she just responded, “you lied to me.  You told me you were not taking Mikee to Sablayan with you”.  (Her reasoning being, if I lied, she could lie, although her lie was a real stretch).  Granted it was bullshit if you went into the whole convoluted story, but my point is, she didn’t turn it into a new reality to deal with her guilt; she just threw it back on me like a bucket of rotting crabs with her rationalization.  

“Oh,” Gordon replied; I could feel his smile on the other end of the phone and his warm empathy.  My humanity was crying to crash its walls.

But the bottom line to all of this was my worst fears that had begun swelling into an elephantitis infection while in the Philippines came true—and the two of them had beat me to the punch, were cleaning me out before I could get back and surprise them.    All this time it has been Randy: the 65,000 pesos, the ring, the TV’s, and I am sure there is more I just have not had time or opportunity to examine.  He (or they) have cleaned me out.  And what is absolutely so mind boggling, was his innocense and naivety and shock whenever I had mentioned anything (pesos, the ring, back bills, back rent, debts, everything). He had been so sincere.  Every muscle in his face and atom in his sad eyes were saying, “oh, my god neil, that’s not right, (that someone is stealing your things); I am mystified what is going on”.  And I wanted so badly to believe him! It was more important that I believe him than save the merchandise.  What illness in me has made me want to believe in him as I believe in the human race.  Was I afraid for general humanity or my own humanity, that I might grasp him, jam a funnel down his throat, pour gasoline, and flick a Bick.   It always appears that tears will be rolling down his cheeks in his bleeding sincerity.  If there are Hollywood actors who can convince you in a movie of the part they play, why not someone on the street with the same skill? Someone so good at playing a role in life that they truly do become that character because as crazy as it sounds, I think he means what he is saying, therein lies the pathology— he believes it!  Is that possible? And the faith shattering truth is that the world is full of people like this—it’s not just thieves, it’s lawyers, political leaders, actors, neighbors, corporate CEO’s—-they are everywhere and it is up to each of us to discern the truth and reality of it all and provide our own solution to bridging the gap of untruth between ourselves and God.   We all lie to varying degrees, but some lies are dangerously unreal.  Are these lies not some kind of profound defense, making us so unconscious, ultimately every man learns how to live with himself, his own separation from God because is that not what guilt is—-the membranes that separate us from God? I have suspected for years that the greatest danger in lying is coming to believe our own lies even at the expense of forcing ourselves into unconsciousness in order to bear the pain of our own guilt.  Lying shrinks the soul! Hell is moving further away from consciousness or “God”; it’s not a place; it’s a state of consciousness.  Is THIS how species evolve and devolve, they follow their collective consciousness!

This whole month that I have been back, I have oscillated between my most human emotions, anger and fear, and a higher understanding.   I was so devastated yesterday afternoon.   I don’t ever remember feeling so helpless and violated.  Maybe it was akin to being raped.  The value of everything that has happened to me because of them can’t even be measured, so many boundaries does it cross and overlap.  And as my friend Liz said, they will never understand or know how they have affected me—-it is beyond their capacity.  Really, getting them out is going to exceed $10,000 in total if I take into consideration air fare back to the U.S to deal with them, rent while trying to get the house back, renting a car.  There are so many expenses.  Paying Felipe what Randy owed him, storage, lost rent, on top of stolen goods, etc, etc.  It is an endless line and I am not through with this kawawa yet! It gets more interesting as I begin rolling the iceberg over on its side.   There exists cold parasitic life on the underbelly of an iceberg.  And the saddest, most devastating thing of all is that Randy and/or Donna would never ever admit, even to themselves that they had anything to do with the multitude of my losses, both material and emotional and how it has affected me as well as those who have listened to my story and thoughts.  They would deny it to their dying breath because that is what people do when they finally have to become what they can’t bear to believe, until the reality of what they have done becomes so distorted in their minds that it takes on an entirely different meaning.  They will pick this story of mine apart and find some contradiction, some little place where they may actually be innocent, and highlight it as though it is the core of truth underlying this whole ordeal to their friends and families, (and they will believe them because that too is a part of dense human nature!) and I am just a self centered, demanding landlord.  Because that is the way the human mind works—-it is capable of creating a hell of lies and distortions.  That is the danger of of this world.  My faith in mankind took a torpedo in the starboard side and the ship of my understanding of who or what God is, tilted seaward, ready to go down.

I cannot emphasize enough that there is no shame, no self consciousness, no guilt because they have found a spot within themselves where they don’t consciously experience these things.  How could they?  Their guilt would eat them alive.  Donna suffers extreme pain and cancer, so she claims or seems she claims,  every day of her life and the need for surgery after surgery, she has ruined her car, and has great debt.  Randy is emotionally connected to Donna, dependent on her in some perverse way, and she is in full denial that Randy has done anything wrong other than being irresponsible.  When she is with me, she attacks Randy, when she is with Randy, she tells everyone what an evil landlord I am.  He has lost his job because of his own bad choices, totaled his car (I have heard said because he may have been drinking), suffered injury, depression, is on the verge of being homeless, and he’s still broke!   I think they are mostly unconscious beings, not understanding why they suffer so much—and they truly do suffer—and project to the world that they are victims!. It is the consequences of choosing to be unconscious, always reacting to disaster, never understanding cause and effect, always moving slower than time around them, unable to move out of the way of disasters.  No one could ever explain this to them any more than a schizophrenic can understand he is schizophrenic when being schizophrenic or the immature can understand their immaturity when they are acting self centered because the two of them are beings of deflated consciousness.  I emphasize this so much because I believe so strongly that this is what “hell” is, separation from “God” created by our own choices.  Why is truth and honesty so important? Because unconsciousness is the alternative—“Hell” to someone who discerns the difference.  

I’ve had to go deep within and make a connection with “God” or my higher Self in order to let go of this nightmare.  Last night, in the middle of the night, I came to a place that gave me some hints as to how to deal with it all, on which I may or may not elucidate.  In attempting to meditate on it, I experienced some glimpses into fascinating perspectives.  The experience has involved my total being, my deepest beliefs, and how committed I am to what it takes to going beyond this and finding peace.  If I take nothing from this experience but understanding the only thing I can do to keep from getting violent, or going out of my mind for the concomitant frustration of it all, I know more clearly than ever before that I must let go.  That means detach emotionally.  It does not mean I don’t care; it means I can’t care if I am to be a whole being.  I must accept that this is beyond my understanding AND I have had a part in allowing it to unfold.  I set them up for this failure.  Maybe this lesson is more for me than for them because after all, it is what we take from it that distinguishes the value of any lesson.  You cannot let go of anything you value more than true peace of mind.  We all want peace of mind, but we all want comfort and “security” as well, and believe on some level that with comfort and security comes peace of mind.  But that is a mistaken belief.  That is only true until some disaster presents itself and comfort or security is shaken, at which time, peace of mind vanishes down a rabbit hole like a red racer trying to escape some mammalian maw.  

If I thought filing a police report would do an iota of good, I would consider it for insurance purposes, but I am pretty sure my insurance company could find any one of a dozen loopholes to circumvent my claims.  My choices: take the law into my own hands, resort to the law for justice, or go within for answers.  But the least any of this is going to extort from me  is time, money, or a new direction I turn to cope with the extraordinary contradictions in life currently beyond my understanding.  DSC_0060And the temperature to all of this has not yet peaked, putting me still deeper to the test of my faith.  Every day I have had to ask myself when will this begin to relent?

Crisis of Faith, Lies (Part VI)