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)

Crisis of Faith, Pacific Heights Depression (Part V)

…Randy asked me if I would not come over to speak to him while Donna was there because it might upset Donna.  I wasn’t sure how to approach giving them notice since technically it wasn’t an eviction and I thought if I remained civil with them, they might be more responsive to moving out in 30 days and not becoming hostile and pulling, “we know the law” bullshit, which would leave me going thru the legal process and spending a lot of money to see it through anywhere from 30-90 days in the state of California.  But within 36 hours Donna was packed up and vanished over to her adult daughter’s.  I checked in with Randy to see with my own eyes that she had really absconded without legal pressure.  The only thing she left behind was a derelict car sitting in my driveway, which I was reassured would be gone within a month.  Now, I was in a situation where I had four weeks to go before reclaiming my house IF Randy kept his word.  But with Donna gone the odds might have shifted into my favor.

My friend of several years, Francesca: hiker, rafter, camper, thinker, writer.

I left for Oregon to see my kids since I had the time.  While I was up there I chose to wean myself off paxil, an anti depressant/anxiety prescription drug I have been taking for the last 20 years.  I don’t take much, but it is enough to take the edge out of my moods.  I also decided to break my habit of my every other day with a Norco 10-325.  I was thinking I might even see if I could stop drinking beer.  And coffee and creamer too while I was at it! I felt a need to clean myself up and focus on my health and mental attitude.  I told myself I was going to “reinvent myself” (cough-cough).  This rental situation had cut me to the marrow of my bones and really exposed to me the weaknesses at my core.  I found over the days in Oregon, I was having a difficult time smiling or feeling much joy in anything, especially considering everything transpiring with the renters.

I was not spending as much time with Doron and Aria as I had hoped due to their schedules and circumstances.  My sister, Karen, was up visiting her daughters the week of my visit, so I only got to spend a very short time with her and her husband while passing through to Eugene.  I only saw my four grand children one brief time.  My friend, Francesca was working Monday thru Friday down in Roseburg, though we did end up managing to do some hiking and communing on the weekend.  Basically Sierran, my oldest son, and I hung out together.  He’s always been an unrelenting proponent of non prescription drug use, as is Doron and Aria also for that matter.  So when I announced I was weaning myself off paxil, I received moral support.

It didn’t take long before the classical symptoms of withdrawal from paxil began to settle in: depression and vertigo (added to my already normal unsteadiness).  I was weaning myself too fast (in part because I was almost out of my prescription).  I cut my doses from the normal halves to quarters, to quarters every other day.  There was no joy in my heart.  Life started seeming heavy.  My thoughts began creeping back to Randy and Donna and that situation.  What if Randy did not move out when he said he would?  What if Randy did not clear his things out of our shared storage unit as he stated he would? My mood swung from basic resignation and acceptance that the ring was gone, irrevocably, forever, to anger and resentment.  Then it started creeping back to hopelessness.  That is never a good feeling.  It reminded me of being a teenager and young man in my twenties when my moods would take these seemingly uncontrollable swings between extremes.  It was a little like being on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Disneyland.  As with a broken clock that has the time right twice a day, the only time I was centered was when my mood swung from one extreme to the other, between wild & crazy and utter hopelessness. For a few moments between radical shifts of mood, I was centered for a few seconds.  Thank God for experience, i.e. being able to discern that part of the mood was the oppressive trial of what I was experiencing, and what part of the mood was the result of withdrawals from Paxil.  

At first I didn’t catch it.  In depression, one tends to believe that the feeling of hopelessness is a permanent state.  But at this point in life, I have realized the best approach to depression is to simply take an intellectual approach: it’s not a permanent state and it will go away just as foul weather will pass.  You just have to wait it out and not identify too closely with it.  I think most people have funks.  It’s the milder side of depression.  I think younger women experience it a lot during menstruation—-once a month, brace yourselves.

But I woke up Saturday morning in a dark place.  I started feeling like everything was beyond my control: The foggy feelings, unsteadiness, now vertigo from paxil withdrawal, the Randy and Donna show, loss of motivation, a feeling of isolation from family and friends.  I started fantasizing about how I could go about disappearing once and for all, as I use to fantasize about robbing banks when I was younger—-anything to engender excitement, life, feeling.  I always think of deep dives when I think about doing myself in.  But then I think about leaving someone with a mess to clean up, you know, having to pull the body up, some poor dive shop getting blamed for irresponsibility and the reputation of allowing their divers to die, my kids having to untangle the estate, and then the appeal of an “accidental” death doesn’t sound quite so appealing.  And of course, you leave people feeling bad.  You go into it thinking no one cares, but in truth there are plenty of people who would be hurt by the selfish act of suicide.  But, my point is that this is what I was feeling, whether I would ever carry through with something like that or not.  I was in a dark and forlorn place.

By this time, I was ready to escape the implacable rain and gloom of Oregon and maybe the return to sunshine might give my spirits a boost.  I drove down to Roseburg, and stayed with Francesca.  We had talked of doing a hike on Sunday.  But, by Sunday, I was so flat in spirit, I was ready to sell my soul to the devil for a glimmer of sunshine and an ounce of hope.  Francesca and I took a drive along the North Umpqua where we wanted to hike.  It was then that a light came on that all I probably needed to do was pop half a Paxil, 10 grams, and I would probably stabilize almost immediately.  We decided to drive back to Roseburg and go see the “The Shack” and I could stop by Francesca’s for my Paxil.  It worked.  And the movie was good—-it resonated with me enough that I went away on an upswing.  

The next morning, I drove back through the mountains of southern Oregon and northern California on Monday.  Shasta was at its best.  The Central Valley was sunny and peaceful.  It was a long, but pleasant drive.   I kept thinking about my house, Randy (and Donna), the storage unit, and what was going to come of that mess.  What surprises would Randy have for me.  I was now going to know soon enough:  I would be going out to storage the next day, Tuesday…

Crisis of Faith, Pacific Heights Depression (Part V)

Crisis in Faith, Pacific Heights Torture Part IV

Enroute to Oregon, Mt. Shasta is always a reminder that beauty trumps everything.

…After flying into L.A., and taking a train up to Fresno, I show up at the door.  Neither of them are surprised to see me.  In fact, Donna has much of her room packed up, boxed and ready to depart for her daughter’s.  We sit down and have a heart to heart talk over the situation.  Randy has a tax return coming “any day now”.  “Everything is actually almost under control,”  he explains.  I ask him why he was short on the studio apartment rent (which is his job to collect and deposit).  I understand why he didn’t pay his own rent—-that’s just the way they are.  But the studio apartment? He had a good explanation.  They were so broke they could not pay bills in January, (that was Donna’s job) and the power got turned off for six days! My first thought was the renter in the back.  How could she live without heat or water?! “Well, she understood,” according to Randy.

“Oh, my god”, I am thinking.  Then when the renter in the back paid them her rent money on the first, they took some of that money to pay utilities and get gas and electricity back on!  They solved the problem.

I was so glad this nightmare was on the verge of ending.  Randy repeatedly reassured me that everything was okay, asking me why I was upset.  He explained his federal tax form was coming in any day now and he was going to pay me everything they owed.  He was so reassuring and so sincere.  But Donna couldn’t help but rip into Randy for good measure and remind him that all of this was his fault.  She apologized to me profusely and reiterated that all of this was Randy’s fault.  He should have never fallen behind on rent.  “Randy how could you, why?!”  she demanded of him, as though we were re-living a scene out of Groundhog’s Day.  I felt badly for Randy as he did his hang dog thing, and blinked back tears.  I thought to myself what a mess these two were.

“Donna,” I reminded her, “we’ve already talked about all this; we went over all of this in detail months ago; you reassured me that it would never happen again and told me to contact you immediately if ever there was a problem again; you never responded to my emails, to my pleas to explain what was going on”.

She hung her head, “Yes, you’re right”.

For me, it was daylight being shed on a nightmare from which I could and would eventually extricate myself.

I told them to go get the black file box, thinking to myself, as long as I get that ring, as long as that ring has not disappeared, I will regroup my losses fairly quickly, though far from painlessly.  As Randy set the box in my lap, Donna immediately confessed that she had gone into the box and taken all the marijuana edibles I had left in the box for possible future use or maybe gifting.  I am thinking, “Donna, I am not worried about the edibles”; I am thinking, “you are no doubt a prescription drug addict, fighting pain, and if that helped your pain, so be it.  I am bothered that you went into my file box for that purpose, but my real concern is the ring”.  I began flipping through things. It looked like some reserve prescription painkillers had disappeared.  I looked up at Randy and said, “Where’s the ring?”

Donna, abruptly, out of nowhere, began sort of tearlessly shriek-crying, “I didn’t take it! I didn’t take it! I would never do that! Why do you think I would do that!”

Two arrows went “phut, phut!” into my heart.  It was Donna! All this time I had been thinking I lost the pesos—I had misplaced them somewhere, (not that they had been stolen)— but now I knew it was Donna! It makes sense, it adds up; this at least clears Randy and in some odd ways restores a little faith in my undying belief that Randy was fundamentally an honest man in that he would not steal from me; I don’t know why that was so important to me.  He could fall months behind on rent, and be unable to pay bills, but he was not a thief.

Donna on the other hand, blew me out.  I was stunned like a fish that had just had its coral reef blasted with a stick of dynamite.  But it all made sense now.  All this time I had just seen her as a person suffering from a chronic state of debilitating pain, hence her complete subsistence on disability.  She owed thousands of dollars for surgeries that she had had to relieve her pain.  She had explained to me how she is now in line for a surgery where they were going to implant a sort of pain reliever liquid, some narcotic to be released into her system by the squeeze of her hand, as I understood it.  She was an addict who was working out the perfect way to stay continuously high.  But until then, she had to relieve her pain manually with prescription drugs.  Of course it made sense that she could lie and steal with a clean conscience because that is the nature of addicts: sex, gambling, drugs; it did not matter.  Addictions trump conscience.

I realized that the ring was gone, irrevocably, forever, and there was no chance on God’s green earth I was going to recover it, and just as the ring had vanished, so had the pesos; both vanished like jinnis into a bottle, or a wallet into a pick pocket’s possession, both in exactly the same manner.  Randy went into the hang dog mode and explained to me that Donna would never do that.  Besides rationalizing why he could not pay rent or his bills, he was Donna’s enabler.  And by his reaction, he must have believed Donna was honest.

“So where did it go, Randy?”

“Are you sure you put it in there?”  Here we go again.  That’s what he had said about the pesos.

“Yes, Randy, I am positive.  I held the ring up for both of you to see as I handed you the box, so you would know that I knew this time”.  I even told Jaime, my friend who provides me with a home when I am not in my own home, “Look, Jaime, you are my witness, I am putting the ring in the box” because I was not going to rely just on my own memory as to where it was going to be stored—in the black box.

“I don’t know; I just don’t remember”, he defaulted.   (He had a car accident back in the summer and he has had memory problems also).  “I don’t know who could have come into the house and gone through our things.  But Donna would never do that; I just don’t know”.

Really? I left the house calmly, though bleeding profusely from the heart, knowing I had been duped because of my unmitigated trust in people, in general.   It is enough that I suffer thousands of dollars of loss from someone, but it actually seems to hurt more when it comes at the hands of someone you were trying to be fair to, someone who could appreciate a break in life.  I honestly think it would be easier to have gotten mugged on the street.  At least there is no pretense.  You know the mugger is not your friend.  (BUT, I don’t want to set myself up for that one).

The next day I insisted Randy go with me to our storage unit because I wanted him to rent his own unit, and move his things out of what was now my unit, so I could take inventory, and I no longer would have to fear my new flat screen TV’s and 26 inch iMac computer disappearing also, not to mention all my cold water dive gear, camping equipment, and boxes of miscellany.  He rented his new locker, but we could not get his bed and sofa moved that were blocking the entrance to my things, transferred to his new unit.  But, to reassure me, he vowed he we would get Felipe to help him move his things out of our collective storage locker while I was in Oregon, so I had to settle for that.  I headed out to Oregon, the next morning.

(Unfortunately, this is not where this story ends.  And as I write, weeks later, the saga is still going on, seemingly always with new twists and turns. )-:)

Crisis in Faith, Pacific Heights Torture Part IV

Crisis in Faith, Pacific Heights Angst Part III

Hiking along the North Umpqua with my friend, Francesca,  a week or so back was as close as  I could come to experiencing hope.


…Then comes Feb. and again there is no rent from them.   And the deposit from the renter in the back is short $75.  Ugh! What the hell is going on.  Then my friend, Patty, across the street whose father does yard gardening and maintenance for me contacts me and says Randy owes 3 months back pay to her father.  Randy’s low rent included him paying a share on the gardening, which is now been dumped back on me because I will make sure Felipe gets paid, even if it comes out of my own pocket.  My next concern is storage.  Initially we were splitting the cost of a unit.  But when he was strapped for money, I paid the storage 3 months in advance and that would give Randy time to come up with his half for the second three months.  Needless to say, this became an issue at the end of that first three months and I was constantly reminding and pressuring Randy to get down there and make a payment.  My fear was he’d move his stuff out—to who knows where to save a few bucks—-and my stuff would get auctioned off, including two virtually new unused flat screen TV’s.  About every other night abroad, I lay my head down on my pillow and start thinking about Randy and Donna.  It eats at me and I wake up anxious.  I shake it off, telling myself not to let my concerns ruin my travels.  Moving past the tenth of Feb,  my concerns begin gnawing at me again like baby Aliens rearing their dragon heads out of my belly.  Of course I can not convey my anxiety to Randy because he can’t imagine why I am concerned or what I am anxious about because he has told me many times that I have nothing to worry about and that should be enough.   

So, by mid February, I finally, got philosophical and resigned myself to the fact that I had to purchase a flight home asap, like it or not, and do what I needed to do—cut my losses and stop the hemorrhaging.   There must have been close to $1000 of debt that was mounting by this time, and the potential for further loss was closing in on me like high tide on a coral reef.  It was getting where I couldn’t put my head on my pillow at night, or pause during the day without stressing over the situation.  It was a great practice in letting go.  I was beginning to feel like a standing baba.  I would go from my right leg to my left leg to relieve the pain.  I did not want to feel pain or anger, frustration or raw, overwhelming angst, and least of all hate.  I repeatedly practiced letting go and told myself to simply cease traveling, go home, attend to the problem, as costly and inconvenient as all of this was proving.  I did not want to go down a hole of negativity.  I told myself not to make it publicly known because Randy reads my blogs (maybe to monitor my whereabouts?).  I thought if I can get them out of the house for the losses that I had incurred up to that time, I would be okay.  I have heard of nightmare stories far worse than mine.  I could take my house back, take control of my life once again, and in the meantime, enjoy a California spring before commencing to travel some more.  My only real fear now that I was beginning to awaken from this apparent unconscious slumber was that the diamond ring was going to disappear on me.  And if things were as nightmarish as they were beginning to appear, I could lose valuables in storage, such as the two new flat screen TVs or my 26” iMac computer.  And who knows what else.  Those were the things that jumped out at me.  

Crisis in Faith, Pacific Heights Angst Part III

Crisis of Faith, Pacific Heights Nightmare (Part II)

As I have often said, disaster will always find a new way to take you by surprise.  Sierran and I trying to get to the hot springs east of Eugene a week or more back.  

The truth is I came back from the Philippines trying to surprise my tenants Randy and Donna.  They were always on Facebook and the link went to my blog site, so they were always aware of what I was doing and thinking.  I was afraid if they were aware of me coming back, valuables I had entrusted to them or that they had access to, might disappear.    If I caught them off guard, maybe I could intercept my possessions of value before their world had fallen so far apart that they would resort to theft.  And Only Randy and I had keys to our shared storage unit.

They started off as very helpful, sincere and apparently conscientious people. They sold themselves well to me.  I liked them a lot and eventually, six months into traveling, ended up entrusting them more or less with everything.  His responsibility was to make sure the studio apartment had a tenant, to collect the rent from the tenant, and along with that, take his own rent and deposit it each month in a limited joint banking account I set up for convenience so he could use that money to pay my miscellaneous bills that came in while I was traveling.  I left a file box with them that had all the vital information he would need to know, which bills to pay, what was important, and what wasn’t.  I had worked out a deal with Randy that if he allowed me to leave the majority of my furniture in the house so it would be easier for me to move back in eventually, and he would pay the utilities for the studio apartment that were on the same billing account, I would only charge him $275 a month.  Initially the agreement was between just Randy and I.  But, he informed me that his girlfriend, Donna, was going to be living with him also.  I would have preferred that only he was in the house because Donna changed the dynamics of things in that now we had too much furniture for the house and one of us had to store our furniture.  Randy was a former neighbor whom I got to know and related to him.  We talked sports, and life regularly and he seemed like a conscientious and responsible guy.  He was articulate and sincere.  Donna was always coming to visit or spend the night with him and I became familiar with her.  She seemed sweet, level headed, and intelligent as well, though she was apparently, always in pain and more often than not medicated on pain killers and prescription drugs.  So when Randy let me know she was going to be living with him, I decided to not worry about it.  But, it turned out that I still had to move some furniture into storage because there just wasn’t enough room in the house for both our furniture.  Randy and I agreed to split the cost of a storage unit we would both use for our excess furniture.

Initially I had a friend managing all these these things and all was going well.  So well in fact, that I decided I could put Randy in charge of what my friend had been doing for me free of charge.  I told Randy that I didn’t think there was any point in having my friend managing things for me from across town, when it appeared Randy was organized, responsible, and right there on the property.  By putting him in charge of the rental in back, he could determine who his neighbor would be: someone compatible, responsible, and conscientious about utility expenses.  Randy was poised to do his first “managing” for me in place of my friend in May when I took off across the U.S. to the maritime provinces of eastern Canada for four months.

All was apparently going well until my return in late Aug, when the first red flag went up.  I believe Randy and Donna failed to make rent for one month and were about to fall two months behind.  Randy had quit his regular job at the hardware store in order to make more money doing electrical work for customers he would meet at National Hardware where he had been working.  But then that wasn’t working out.  He gave me a very convincing story how so many customers owed him money and were due to pay any day now and he would soon be caught up again.  I understand how things sometimes do not go as planned so was not too upset or worried and still absolutely trusted him.  After all, the rent was only $275 a month—who couldn’t come up with that (between two well intentioned people)?  But, the deposit also was $100 short and he confessed he had “borrowed” the money from the rent money he had collected from the back tenant because Donna’s car needed some critical, emergency care, and she had been really pressuring him to take care of the problem and according to him, he had let her convince him to put that problem above rent.  This was very upsetting, but I kept my cool.  He pleaded with me not to tell Donna because he had things under control.  Being the soft touch that I am and trusting him, I bit my tongue and gave him time.  (I had had him on my primary savings and checking account at the time to make it easy for him to pay bills, so much did I trust him, I am ashamed and embarrassed to say, but immediately dissolved that arrangement.  It is probably the only wise amendment I made during this entire ordeal).

In the meantime, my next trip to the Philippines was rapidly approaching and I had already purchased a ticket for $600 to Manila.  Then Randy had a somewhat serious auto accident and totaled his car and knocked himself out of work for six weeks and failed to come up with rent again, as I feared, for the second month in a row,  and none of his customers came through with the money they owed him.   This shot an arrow of alarm into my heart.  I decided to meet with both of them immediately and find out exactly what the hell was going on.  Donna seemed shocked and angry.  She tore into Randy who did his usual hang dog, shamed look.  She explained to me that Randy had not told her anything about the rent not being paid; she explained it was his responsibility to pay the rent and her responsibility to pay the bills.  She is on disability for pain and cancer ?(I believe).  She used to be an apartment manager so she knows about rent issues.  She said that I should have never gone so long without telling her (who I never really considered the primary renter); It started feeling like my fault because Randy wasn’t really responsible enough to take care of his end of things.  I always saw her as someone Randy was care taking for and she was the one that was helpless.  But in meeting with them, I began seeing her as the dominant, maybe more responsible partner.

My dilemma was should I trust her to set things right, catch me up on lost rent and the missing $100 or did I “evict” them and start all over again. I had already spent $600 on a ticket to Manila.  My plans were set and to change them was not going to be cheap or easy.  I chose to believe Donna would take charge after talking with her and decided to proceed with the trip.  We got the black file box out, made sure everything was in order, and I placed a few things in the box that I entrusted to them, which included a $2500 diamond ring.  I think now how idiotic I was even though Randy has always come off as a most honest and sincere individual.  Whenever he would reassure me of anything, he practically had tears in his eyes.  Every muscle in his face sagged with openness and truth.  Even when my friends and family would say I was reading Randy wrong, I refused to believe he was anything but the most well-intentioned, honest guy, and I was literally, unwittingly putting my money on him like I would a number on the roulette wheel, despite all the signs and all the warnings that the odds were 32 to 1 against me.  

And somewhere in this narrative of tangled events (I’ve lost track of the exact chronology of all this), I had 65,000 Philippine pesos worth $1300 vanish, cash that I set aside for my second trip to the Philippines.   I looked everywhere. I even blogged the mystery.  I couldn’t really conceive that it was stolen, let alone that Randy, sincere and honest to a fault would do something like that.  I would never do something like that, why would he?  Since my diving incident in March of 2016, my head has been in a bit of a fog and my memory not quite like it has been in the past, so rather than believe it was stolen, I chose to believe I had stupidly gone and misplaced it and that it would eventually show up.  Knowing my habits though, I most likely put it in my black file box, (where I keep small valuables) which I had at one time entrusted to my friend Chris, the initial “property manager” and now Randy (and unwittingly Donna), but when I told Randy about the missing money, he was so convincing that it had never been there and he would never do something like that, I dismissed the idea.  I brought the money back from the Philippines in April, the same time I turned the box over to Randy.  And Donna has always been so sweet and sincere I never even considered her either as a possible suspect.  And when Randy said, “I would never know what to do with Philippine pesos, why would I take them?”, I thought, “yeah, Randy is not like that and he is not sophisticated enough to know just take them to Bank of America and exchange them for dollars”.

So after Donna reassured me everything would be put back in order and debts repaid, I decided to proceed with the trip, feeling relieved of my fears and concerns.  As I am traveling around the Philippines, Randy is communicating with me via email, keeping me informed of what is transpiring regarding bills.  He was always been good at this.  But then at the end of the first month, after we had agreed to a payment schedule for back rent, there still was no payment toward their debt to me.   I write them both in email, but get no detailed explanation.  Donna swore to me that if there was ever again any problem with money, contact her immediately.  She only replies once, vaguely and feebly, sending me some photos of some gross, pimple like thing on her skin and explaining that she has been so sick.  After several inquiries to them, Randy just says her disability money was lost in the mail, some unusual mix up.  My thoughts are, “here we go again”.  It weighs on me, but I don’t want my travels ruined by worrying about whether or not I am going to get this back rent in a timely manner so again, I try dismissing it in my mind to the best of my ability.   

But intermittently, I continue to press them.  Randy finally pays an extra $100 to get me off his back.  Every month I pressure them for the back rent.  Donna has disappeared from the correspondence altogether.  I am so pissed and upset at Randy I am practically writing emails of explanation and reassurance for him that i want him to send me.  (I know what will make me feel better).  But instead, all he does is pay my loose end bills and collects rent from the tenant in the back, who I have only met once so have no real contact with her.  He is very good at paying these bills, making repairs, keeping things maintained.  This is what I use to reassure myself in a situation that seems to be roiling beyond my control. I sense a nightmare building up like the first nimbostratus clouds above the African savannah at the onset of the rainy season.    

Crisis of Faith, Pacific Heights Nightmare (Part II)