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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Funny Story


This was an entry into a contest to become a TV programmer for six months. I didn’t win but you should get a smile out of this story.

13th March 2011

First, I will be so nervous my first day at Current that I miss my off ramp and get lost on the way to the studio.

Then I will get a call from Current asking me where I am, and I will answer it being too nervous to know better.

Being distracted from the road I will be killed by an oncoming truck and Current will televise my funeral causing everyone who knew me to lie and say they thought I would have done great things.

I will then return to the studio as a vengeful spirit creeping out writers for the rest of eternity.

Work history
I’m a Security Officer or at least I was until I lost my job early in 2011. I started in the world of security in 1998 getting my first job two weeks before graduating from high school. I’ve been in security ever since but dabbled in writing for the last few years. In addition I publish a webcomic and put out videos on YouTube. I will be graduating with a BA in Psychology shortly.

Why should you choose me?
I earned an A plus in screenwriting, but I’m not a film student. My training in Psychology gives me greater insight into the workings of the human mind. I have training in live performance witch gives me experience with script analysis and working with actors. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Listened to a Crying Man


15th March 2011
Dear Cassi,

         
Well, in my last letter I told you about my time working as a guard for (a phone store). I have to say one of the most difficult situations that ever arose at work happen at that place. A man arrived one afternoon on a bicycle loaded down with bags and such. He was an older ragged looking man with a long graying beard. My first thought was that he might have been homeless, but I had to say he was too clean. The old man had come for help with his cell and his questions took a supervisor more than two hours. Every now and again the supervisor would excuse himself and the old man would talk to me about his life. That was nothing of a concern, people had been discussing their lives with me from the day I became a Security Officer. He was an electrician by trade with one son who was out of work.
         
As the old man went on his stories became more upsetting. He told me that one of his friends had been cheating on his girlfriend when he was killed and his body parts had been spread over a highway. He said that the girl was never the same after that and who would be.  At this point I had to wonder if the man was insane because he was opening up to a stranger in a room full of people, but having experience in that regard I just let him talk. He just needed to vent I figured.

He told me that his brother was very rich, but that his brother’s son had committed suicide. Now that was a story that truly drew my interest, because this nephew had everything in the world, everything that you and I would want, and still took his own life. At first I didn’t believe, but then the man looked in his bags and came away with a file folder baring his nephew’s name and showed me a copy of the suicide note. I remembered that it said “I’m sorry, I can’t tell whether it is positive or negative,” the duration I can’t remember.

The most upsetting thing about this case is that the deceased had just started medication and it is likely that killed him. It is the sad truth about psychiatric medications used to treat depression that the time shortly after they are administered the desire for death has not been suppressed but the depression has. All too often the sufferer is given just enough will to die.

I watched tears well in the old man’s eyes as he spoke of his departed nephew and hoped that the year I had given to his pain would relieve his suffering some.

Stay safe, Cassi

Richard Leland Neal

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Call Me Back or Not


I didn’t right much in this letter, then, I think that would be because of the spacing and font as I had the need to keep this all on one page.  Well, most folks would be hard pressed to write one page every day of their life and I’ve taken to that in the modern day.

Then again, I may be boring Cassi to tears.
14th February 2011
Dear Cassi,

Well, my last letter should still be in the mail as I write this, but as I figure if you have ten lunches a week, and if you read these letters at work you can read a lot of them. Then, as you don’t get these at home you might read them out of order.

In any case I was saying how (Rusty) had gotten pissed when I wouldn’t take the swing shift. Well, he told me to call him in a few days and I did. He again told me that he had nothing but the swing shift.

It was at this point that I complained to HR about (Rusty). They didn’t think this was an issue. HR is never on your side so remember that. HR told me to talk to a guy who, I shit you not, is named (after the killer from Halloween movies). I left him a message and the next day they put me on a new account. It was a temp account guarding a (phone store) for the holidays.

This place was okay but I was used to graveyard, and it had a bad effect on me. I started having deep stabbing pain in my lower back and I couldn’t bend down. The first two days on this post I did almost nothing but patrol the perimeter. They didn’t have much interest in what I was doing or so I thought. I asked them what they wanted and they couldn’t tell me.

Hmmm, one page isn’t a lot of space is it?

Richard Leland Neal 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Evil Smile


I recall writing this and having to stop and sleep to regain my energy. I was depressed and about to lose my job.  This was a dark time in my life and reliving it is not easy. I know I need to do this again until the pain is livable and I have resolved the memory in my head.

Even now more than a year after the event I still feel the exhaustion of those days.

11th February 2011

Dear Cassi,

Almost a month has passed since my last letter and I guess that means you haven’t had much to read at work. That would be a bad joke; I have a lot of those. In any case life just keeps on moving and I just keep on sleeping through it.
         
Where I left off in my last letter was when I walked out of Leach for the last time. I’ll never forget that evil smile on Scotts face. I can tell you something else, knowing that it was my last day I checked that snack machine one last time just in case there was something I really wanted. It was a funny sort of nostalgia but as long as I had worked at that place those machines had been there and the vending man had treated me as a friend.

That was a Monday; I got a call from (Rusty) on a Tuesday asking me to come to the office on my last day of finals which was that Wednesday. There are a lot of days in this paragraph.
         
When I got there he told me that I was doing a great job, but that I was making fifty cents to much and hour. He tried to get me to take a job out in Long Beach more than forty miles from my home, but he had no idea how much it paid. When I said no he said the only job he had open was a swing shift and that conflicted with my classes for the semester.
         
When I said no to the swing shift he started yelling. That’s kind of (Rusty)  for you, he thinks he can get what he wants that way. It was bullshit and he knew it, but I digress.
         
I’m going to try to keep these letters one page long so they don’t get lolegaled. I’m going to try to send you pages of the new draft of my novel as well. Some of it is stuff you have read and some isn’t.

Richard Leland Neal 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How Many Pages to Read Before You Know it Sucks?


I recall this as a response to another of the blog posts of the ill fated Leurcota Press.

The blogger had asked how many pages to give a novel before you put it down and made a few more comments. I had answered out of having something to do with what little energy I had at my disposal.

Another, and if I recall correctly, the main point was that the writer had run across a web posting of the first chapters of a few books and felt that the first chapter simply wasn’t enough to go on.
 23rd January 2011

The first time I ran across this myself was in the back of a novel and it had excerpts from the author’s other books. I think it started as something where you had to have a few things going in order for you to get that printing time. That was before the internet got as big as it is and bandwidth got cheaper.

Still, it was a mass print thing. It included an excerpt from the book I was reading so it couldn’t have been printed for the book and I don’t think it even had page numbers. It comes from print and so is a print tradition.

Further down your line of thought, giving a book fifty pages isn’t a bad idea and there are a few books I lost interest in at the half way point. If you’re reading for recreation then just read as much as you feel like. Never force yourself to read something without good reason.

In this age of the internet we can look up book reviews left and right and hear about what the masses think every now and again. Then, I’ve read at least one “New York Times Best Seller” that made me want to puke.

Another point is that if a first chapter is too overloaded with facts then the story probably isn’t very accessible. Most people don’t sit down and read a novel. They read it over days, weeks, or even months. They don’t always stop reading at a chapter end either so they should be able to pick up where they left off without too much trouble.

First chapter: why not? It’s more than nothing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I wake from Illness


6th February 2012
Dear Cassi,

This last month of illness has taken its toll on me, and for the first time I have failed to turn in my grad school assignments on time. It became necessary for me to sit in the dark as the sickness has some strange effects.
   
It came to pass somehow that the light burnt my eyes and only the darkness could give me comfort. I sat nude in this velvet void as fever kept my skin wet, and when I would wake my lips would be as leather. For the two days of my weekend I was like this in my manner only venturing into the light for short times. I had no want for food even as the swelling in my mouth had subsided. 
   
I came from this on this eve with a lighter feel to my chest and none the worse for wear save some dizziness. I still wish I could have some time off work, but I have never found that days off help me much as I spend the time in bed.
   
I was well enough to once again do dishes and that was a major boon as Paul is useless in this regard. The man is like a well behaved dog. He will not clean up after himself and he gets on people when they come over. I have no idea what I will do but I can say that there is no easy answer.

Stay safe, little sister




Richard Leland Neal

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bad Guarding


Sometime in January 2011
Dear (News Group):

The story regarding that poor elderly woman who was inappropriately searched by TSA agents was as heart rending as it was unsurprising.

Body searches should never be conducted in public both because they are undignified and because they give the terrorists an opportunity to see what our procedures look like. The more a procedure is known the easier it is to undermine.

Once more, in Israel, a country with a stunning transport authority record, this woman would likely not have been searched. The Israelis use a bit of common sense when they screen flyers. Age is a factor, but there are many things the Israelis would have taken into account when screening this person and she would have been deemed no threat.

Moreover, the treatment of anyone in so rood and undignified a way is beyond the boundaries of a society that wishes to call itself civilized. Security personnel should be polite but firm in their dealings. We are meant to keep order not to act as hired thugs.

I’ve been a Security Officer since 1998, and I can say from experience that this incident is not uncommon. Diligence and performance quality have never had value in security work.

I was working at a factory that made parts for aircraft until last month when I was removed so they could replace me with a new Officer who made fifty cents less an hour.

I find it maddening that the safety of air passengers isn’t worth another half dollar.

Richard.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Life Code


I wrote this more than a year ago and it applies to my life just as well today as it did then. This is a post form my other blog so to some extent I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul but I feel this just makes good reading.

21st January 2011

This is the Situation, Now Deal with it!

How many times in life have I heard an inspirational line of bull about bad situations? ‘Every development is an opportunity!’ ‘When life hands you a lemon make lemonade.’

If I may test that with a few situations I’ve been in: When I was ten my mother died of cancer. Lemonade any one? Nope, I don’t feel better.

When I was twenty-two I overloaded my kidneys. That looked more like orange soda to me.

When I was twenty-five my father gave the money for my college education to my sister so she could buy a home. I suppose you could look at the bright side but it will never equal the thirty grand my sister got. No, at the end of the day I just need to deal with that and move on.

So that’s my new life motto “This is the situation, now deal with it.”

Okay, the situation is that I just joined the 12.4% of Californians who are unemployed. I have a year of unemployment and some savings. My life has always been a mess; at least from the day my mother died twenty one years ago, so around finishing my degree and finding a new job I can always spend a few hours a day picking up the pieces. 

I’ve always wanted to reboot my life, reread every book I own, watch every movie again, get my health in order and get my head where it should be. That was a fancy, a delusion, and a fool’s errand, but if I find a job on Monday at least I’ll be able to say that I finally got to that pile of laundry. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Day I Lost My Job


If there is one thing writing these letters has done for me it is help to clear my head. When I wrote this my head needed clearing but it was too painful to keep writing.

As I go over it again the old wound itches a bit but I can live with the feeling.

I’m leaving most of the names in here and if they want to complain I’ll take them out. However, given that this post will do well if it sees twenty sets of eyes a code of silence will do me no good.
18th January 2011
Dear Cassi,

Well, been a bit since my last letter. Life has been hell and I kind of got knocked out of the game for a spell. I figured it was time to write another letter if for no reason other than to clear my head. It’s sad the way things played out in this another dismal chapter of my life, but what can one do?
   
Finals were looming and I was putting most of my energy into them when my friend Mario was removed from post. I came in Friday and found someone else working for him. This was a guard from (Shipping Company) Cerritos no doubt. Leach, where I was working, had been a graveyard of (Shipping Company)ers for years. Mario even called me afterwards to let me know what had happened. They told him he was off because he couldn’t use the computer. Mario was an old man who thought of pictures as being static and using typewriters. He couldn’t get with it enough to screen people.
   
Then it was my turn. I noticed that a guard had trained seven hours one Saturday morning. He had gotten in one hour after I left shift. I knew this was bad but could do nothing, as things had been set in motion. I asked my relief officer, Daniel, if he knew anything about it and he said “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Daniel is a bad liar. He had to have seen the officer leave. I knew at that point, but I didn’t want to believe.
   
When I came in to work that night I found a folder for the new guard, Bob Harris, and it had paperwork for my shift. There could be no doubt then. I packed up all my belongings and made ready to face the office people. Scott, my boss smiled as I walked out the door.

This is all I can take of talking about this now.

Richard Leland Neal 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Looking for Books


I do believe that I had lost my job just before writing this and the last two posts. I must have spent the day trying to get my mind off my situation. Well, I would return to this day in my life and live the past year over again if I could. For one, I’ve had a lot of fun over the past few months and for two I wasted a lot of time.

In any case, someone asked how I found books to read and this was my reply.

15th January 2011

Hmmmm, when I look at the mountains of books I own it comes to be that I didn’t buy half of the novels. Some came with the house, most were hand me downs, and a few came from me wanting to read something that I had some other experience with.

I do listen to a good number of my friends when it comes to novels. The last recommendation was “Phoenix without Ashes” and it came down from a friend and fellow Sci Fi geek and I’ll read that one at least three times before I pass it on to the next reader.

So finds and friends lead me to my books.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Working with Coauthors


Here we have another of the responses to the Blog for the ill fated Leucrota Press as small publisher who fell victim to the bad economy.

The funny thing is that will all the experience I have you’d think I’ve published something. Well, it hardly ever works out that way. I can only hope the future is brighter for me than the past.

On another note, I wish I had saved a copy of the original post to show you. Well, I never thought I would be writing about a failed publisher.
15th January 2011


Well, Lily,

I’ve worked on collaborations three times and each was a big fail. This was before I got good at RPGs but a lack of talent wasn’t the issue. The first time my writing partner refused to finish anything. I’d see a story start to emerge then he would get on something else and want to start over.

The second time I worked with a man who wouldn’t compromise on anything. He had what he wanted and I was along for the ride. Going back over that piece now days I can see that he never intended to finish it, because the editing was so bad, but the point was he wasted my time.

The last one was the most successful. I listened to his idea, wrote an outline, and then did the principle writing. The only problem was that he was too invested in his characters, and he’d keep writing in things that had nothing to do with the story. ‘That’s not what I wanted my characters to be like’ he would say to me. ‘Well, you didn’t give me anything to work with. I had to make a decision.’

Likewise, the DnD people I’ve known come up with great story, but it feels better than it reads. It’s easier to invest in a character played by someone you know over a character you have no experience with.

If you’re going to work with a coauthor its best to have someone take principle writing responsibility or have each author follow different sub plots. Let the other person give you notes not rewrite your work. I wouldn’t work with a friend either. Try not to do business with people you don’t want to lose.

The best author combinations come with a union of necessity, an established author working with a Newb for example. The Newb is kept in line by the need for the establish author, and the established author should already know how to work with people.

If you work with a friend be prepared to get to know them better than you ever have before. Get ready to see the bits they keep tucked away. The experience is worth having for an artist but can have a very bad outcome.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

How do I Make an Alien?


This was a post in response to the blogs of the ill fated Leucrota Press and their commentary on the makings of Aliens. I have to figure that it would make good reading for any Sci Fi geek looking to make a new beast. 

15th January 2011

NASA found a what you say? Last time it was warp bubbles and the time before that life on Mars.
   
Sorry to tell you, but I’ve been following this story and the science was a little fuzzy. First off the Arsenic they fed the bacteria had phosphorus in it so the bacteria could have just eaten that, second the extracted DNA was poorly cleaned so it could have been contaminated. This is a long way from proof of arsenic life.

Proof is a bad word when dealing with one study to begin with. My teachers always told me to say ‘this study suggests’ rather than it proves because proof can be unproven.

Moreover, if you’re coming up with a strange body for your aliens you also need to come up with a reason for the morphology. With my massive Red Stone warriors I came up with a clear evolution that molded them into their present state. Every now and again people keep saying ‘I thought they weren’t humans because they were so tall.’ 

They’re tribe is no different from you or I than a pigmy, but the diversity among the ranks of the human race is lost on many a modern American. There are lots of humanoids running around on earth for us to make into aliens and even more strange things in the sea to give intelligence. Still, let us set that aside for now.

Things evolve out of utility, and if you’re going to make a true alien the first question is “why did it evolve?” It needs hands to hold with and feet to walk with, eyes to see, and a brain to wonder. If something is going to be so different from humanity that it is truly bizarre then why did that life form become dominant?

The final note in this alien song is, “what does it have to do with the story?” Remember that people can’t see what you’re talking about so you need to show them with words. My Red Stone are giants and so I have to keep reminding the reader that they are dealing with a being bigger and stronger than normal humans. If I forgot to do that they would just be people who use different words and their uniqueness would be lost.

Different isn’t always good, so if you’re coming up with something to be different you’re thinking too hard. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Obligations


This is a statement regarding a student needing to take a class rather than take an internship. In this case the student who agreed to permit this post will remain anonymous.  
30th November 2010

As clearly there has been some breakdown in communication or misunderstanding in this matter I will re-cap the full situation for the benefit of both the department chair and the psychology counseling office.

I was originally told my present job could count as an internship, but now I’m told that is not true. That is why I’m addressing this now. I was told by Dr. Blackman that a petition for an alternative to PSYC 495 was possible on economic grounds. I have once again been told that is not true, but my reasoning is that I need to look after my mentally ill brother. He becomes agitated easily and I need time to attend him.

Moreover, my brother’s condition has deteriorated some this semester, and his risk of suicide has increased making an internship more difficult.

My brother’s early diagnosis was Paranoid Schizophrenia but that is a common misdiagnoses. He reported three distinct voices all telling him to commit acts of violence. He has had four suicide attempts and has been known to become violent.

There have been times he was unable to feed, and wash himself but now he has the level of function of an eleven or twelve year old. 

He can’t clean up after himself so that is my primary time consuming duty. When he has an episode I need to talk him through exercises to calm him down. He needs to be supervised when handling the dog or young children. It’s been a few years since physical restraint was necessary, but I have been called by neighbors to come get him when he’s lost it.

I generally attend classes when he is in group and work when he sleeps.

If further information is required I’m available the full day of the first, assuming my brother has no problems that day, for an appointment in the counseling office.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sleepy and the Three Microwaves


29th November of 2010
Dear Cassi,

Okay, this letter might sound a little dicey because I can hardly keep my eyes open. That's not a good thing when you just started your shift. The night stretches before me like and endless field shrouded in mist and I, weary and careworn, wish I could rest before my long walk. Well, there are more distressing things in this world than heavy eyelids. I've put the fan on my face so that the cool air can wake me up some.

I don't understand how I can be wide awake when I came to work and falling over a few minutes later. I mean, take it as it comes and all, but I just had a cup of coffee, and I still feel sleepy. I woke up better after a walk, but I still feel as if I could just roll into bed and sleep for a week. It works out that way some times.

Maybe I should have accepted that cola (my coworker) tried to give me when I relieved him. He got the last one out of the machine, but I could have asked for a can and not a bottle like he got. He only offered me the cola because I gave him Amber’s old microwave. I had to get rid of it anyway.

I don't know if I ever told you the tail of the three microwaves. It was one of those things where you wind up with so much crap you don't know what to do with it. I'd had a row and work and taken my microwave home. We had one already. The third came out into the dining room as if of its own accord. It kind of looked like a cross between the two microwaves we had that I could account for. I even went as far as to ask my Paul where it came from.

The microwaves were multiplying! This was a ghastly omen to a man wanting to get rid of his microwave. Eventually I gave the unit from my work to my neighbor and put an old shirt over the microwave from nowhere. Then, more than a year later, I was coming on duty and (my coworker) was getting off. (my coworker) said he needed to warm up his lunch.

“(My coworker), shouldn't you warm that up when you get home?” I asked him and he said that his old microwave wouldn't warm up something that big. He said that he never put more in it than two tortillas. This sounded like a perfect opportunity to unload the mystery microwave. I took it out and tested it. The thing still worked but my Paul suddenly remembered that was my Amber's when she had been in college. That was ten years ago. The microwave was fourteen years old.

Then when I brought the microwave to work (My coworker ) said that his brother was getting a microwave and would likely give him the old one. Groan, why the hell hadn't he said something in the first place? Then he told me that it wasn't certain and the his brother's microwave was old too. Again, too much information, what do I need to know that stuff for? You try to help someone and they just go out and give you grief about it.

Well, I shouldn't be surprised. After all, look at all the people I've helped. Not one was there when I needed help, those that could be and those that couldn't fell together in a stew of useless. Oh well, I came out stronger for it in the end. My goal was to be rid of that microwave and I'm rid of that microwave. Next there will be some more junk to toss away.

I've got to get things out of my house like I've got to get things out of my head. Clear life, clear thought, clear sailing. If all the world could be pristine again and the scars of the past erased then perhaps I could get a fresh start. Well, it's a dream that will never happen, but I can still get rid of some of my crap.

Stay safe,



Richard Leland Neal

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Computer Reading to Me


24th of November 2010

Dear Cassi,

Let me get it out of the way that I'm still not sure how I should send the full novel to you more, because I think I need to give it two more edits rather than one than that I'm having mail issues. It feels like I'm never going to be done with this thing. I think this is the tenth full edit, but it all meshes together now. Endless hours of listening to a computer read it to me. I wonder if the two different computer voices alter my ability to hear the right words.

Each of my computers has its own reader voice. The laptop is a girl and the main computer is a boy and the two do sound different. The old laptop has a male voice named Sam but the computer can't handle text documents over so many pages, and it really gets its wires tied over the reader and word processor running at once.

One frustration among many in a life full of frustration. Well, what can we do the hours pass to quickly as the task takes forever, and I feel the work as a heavy load. The days pass on and I still have more work to do. Well then, enough of my lament.

I don't know if I have spoken to you about my friend, Alex, whose kidneys are inflamed. He came in Monday morning looking as if he would not make it through the day. I could hear him groan as is stomach worked at the fluids that his body could not pass. It was a pain to see him like that, and once again he admitted to not taking my advice. Feeling sorry for the man I gave him the sweet potato from my lunch and told him if he had it he would feel better. I had no other advice to give him having said it all already. What do you tell a man that will not listen?

Tuesday morning I saw him once again and he said that the sweet potato had helped him markedly. “It got me through the day.” He told me. You would think that if one right meal would change things he would have at least one right meal a day, but no he just keeps killing himself.

I don't claim to be a health expert, but what I tell him works. You have to wonder about a man that is willing to put himself through that without doing a few simple things.

Then, I asked him where he shopped, and he said that his sister did the shopping for him, and that she wouldn't by him soy milk because she was afraid of getting the wrong one. He had one carton of Costco soy milk and he was good for a week. I just don't get it. This man could be one day away from better health, and he just keeps doing the wrong thing.

I feel for the man because I've been there, and I don't want to be there again. It was agony when my kidneys overloaded. I couldn't exercise, it was hard to work, I just sat in bed for hours in misery. The worst part about it was that my body would never heal because of the nutrition deficiency. It was murderous and frustrating.

In the end I stumbled on the right things to keep my body going. It's helped some but I've still a long way to go. A man like me shouldn't go giving people health advice. I should go look after myself first. Then it’s a hard road with many hills to walk. It's a long and lonely walk. The kind that fills your boots with cold mud. That's my world.

Anyway, best get to it


Richard Leland Neal

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Dear Dean


12th November 2010
I recall writing this letter very distinctly, my heart was pounding with anger and I had to take some time to deal with myself before emailing this off.

I was given no reply as I recall, this was the largest problem I had faced with my education. Having more than ten years work experience makes the idea of an internship rather unnecessary.

The worst of it was that a twenty thousand dollar education didn’t warrant this fellow sending me a return email. When the educator thinks of the student as a bother to be ignored is there a reason for the educator?

My Dear Dean (of the college of humanities),

It comes that I have a situation that I need to address to your office.

I have had the most difficulty in dealing with a psychology class PSYC 495. I wished to resolve the issue I had with the class, but I found that both the teacher and the department chair refused to work out the details before the semester began.

I dropped the class feeling that I would be unable to get an internship to find that it is common for a student’s existing job to be used as an internship.

Now, after registering for the class in winter session I'm told that there is a problem with my occupation after the department chair himself told me not to worry. 

I pay thousands of dollars to have these issues resolved in good time,  and because your teachers and staff failed to ask the right questions or give me the right information my graduation will be delayed at least a full year.

Now I am not foolish enough to think you're going to help me in anyway, but I would like you to explain to me why the Psychology department has made mistakes that cost me money and it is my responsibility to clean up their mess.

This is for the record 

Richard Leland Neal

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ghost in the World


12th November of 2010
 Dear Cassi,
I had a conversation this week with an old neighbor of mine who moved out of the neighbor hood then moved back after finding that her new home was too dangerous. She wanted to show me her new home which was almost the same layout as my home. She had the place remodeled more or less with an emphasis on new lighting. I can't say much for it, but she was happy and that was all that mattered.

She put six sunken lights in the living room and I think two or three in the hallway. I can't say that this is a good way to make a light as it keeps the ceiling and walls darker. A dark home may look good in a horror movie, but you got to live in this place. I noted that the body work on the ceiling fans was a dark chocolate with the blades the same color. They were darker then the wood of the floors and furniture. Over the last fifty years woods have changed a lot. I think they were at their darkest in the 80s. This used to have something to do with the availability of wood.

Now days we can get wood in any color and most of it is fake wood. The bedroom fans had been made to look organic like fire hardened roots of tribal spears. Some people say it adds to the spice of life. I think they're just trying too hard.

Well, in the back yard she had six avocado trees. None had fruit and all six had to be cut back hard just to keep them alive. They had grown so large their branches tangled together making them into a big canopy. The trees had been sickly as if they had struggled to live under their own weight. My neighbor told me that she had six fig trees taken out because they had been too sick to give fruit.

You see a lot of that in California and for that matter much of the world. The bad economy has left much of the world withered and sickly. We over grew our means, and when the economy shut down it all fell into disuse. One day the dust will cover us like a gray blanket, and the rain will carry us away leaving the world barren.

After the tour my neighbor spoke to me for more than an hour. She's a grandmother now and a withered old woman with hard vertical lines on her face. On the left side of her mouth a tar stain from smoking stood out as her defining feature. She lived on my street before I was born and so we spent some time talking about my mother who died twenty-one years ago next month. No one on the block knew haw crazy my mother was. She had a hard life and died young with all the people around her taking no notice.

How many of us are ghosts in this world? My mother and I could have stepped off the face of the world and none would have taken notice for weeks. Like extras in a movie we walk along the streets as part of the back drop of the world. We all have a story, we all have an identity, but so many of us hardly exist. You got to wonder what the hell is wrong with people that they have tunnel vision, and they can't see the people around them. It seems like we all just turn away and forget.

In the end, I told my neighbor that she should get to her dinner because it was getting cold and took my leave. It's funny how she spent so much time talking to me, but maybe I'm a good listener. Then we might have had a few of the same problems. I can't imagine how this woman, with her children and grandchildren, would have a shortage of people to talk to. The world works out that way sometimes. I remember being in crowds of people and still always alone. Maybe those people were like faces in a painting: they look human but just aren't real, or they could be like veins of gold waiting to be opened with pick and drill. Either way, it's time for me to get ready for work.

Stay safe,

Richard Leland Neal