My Fondest Childhood Memory

Marty set me up with “StoryWorth.” They offer a topic to write on. At the end of a year they compile them into a book. I did not intend to blog this. Karen suggested I do.

_______________________________

My fondest childhood memory?  My initial impression was, from Daddy’s death, Friday, April 13, 1945, until I found Psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Chernel in late winter 1969, I have no fond memories.  I ran this by Karen.  Playing her Devil’s Advocate role, my partner pointed out I might be mistaken.  As usual, she’s right.

Convinced life was idyllic before losing my dad, I’m puzzled that I have scant memory of those eight years.  In my bog, “The Poachers” is a fictionalized “fond” memory.  Another time I helped Daddy drive sheep out of a pasture.  They ran around me back into the field, I cried.  Daddy knelt, put an arm around my shoulders, and reminded me of the picture show that evening.  We’d see Gene Autry or Roy Rogers, maybe both!

Five years later, for fifty cents a day, I was Uncle Grant’s “hired man.”  Like the escaping sheep, I let charging horses escape the corral.  My Boss threw a fit, cursed, and shouted at me.  I was terrified.  My first, but far from last, exposure to Uncle Grant’s rants.  I vowed then, I can take care of myself; whatever the sacrifice, I must keep other people happy.  In this mindset, I decide the only way I could help Mama was, “Be a good boy and don’t cause problems.”  This motto has served me well.

Karen reminded me of, not “fond,” but good-enough memories after we moved to Ferron in 1947.  April 3, 1937, I drew breath in Grandpa Leslie’s bedroom.  Four days later, catty-cornered across the street in Grandpa Nielsen’s bedroom, Stewart made his first wail.  A Major League center fielder could have thrown a baseball out my grandpa’s bedroom window into Stewart’s.  For over a decade Stewart and I were closest of friends.

At the mouth of Ferron canyon, desperados on horseback, bandannas over our noses, brandishing cap pistols, we attempted to holdup vehicles.  Our would-be victims honked, waved, and laughed.  No booty.

In the same vicinity, someone found a fallen-apart box of TNT bricks.  Left and forgotten, I assume, when they built the road.  Over following weeks, the explosives jostled in a gunny sack in bicycle baskets.  Someone, maybe Clifford, swiped a blasting cap, fuse, and half stick of dynamite.  With this detonator, we blew up the end of a bridge on a long-abandoned road near Moore.  A huge “boom” and column of black smoke! 

In summer, on the rare days I somehow escaped Uncle Grant’s iron grip, at “McKenzie’s” on the Molen ditch we swam in water with bacteria and pollution levels barely not much above sewage.  Which was not significant since the Molen ditch originated near the “settling pond” for Ferron’s drinking water.  Often tap water was barely clearer that ditch water.   

Fond childhood memories revolve around family and friends.  Forty at Mama’s house at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  On Ferron reservoir, fishing in a leaky WWII surplus rubber raft, one man rowing another manning the air pump to keep us afloat.  In Molen hunting pheasants with Uncle Seeley, Don, and Keith.  On the south side of Big Mountain, in the “Doctor’s Cabin” hunting deer with a dozen men.  And a lot more.

I can’t say when my “childhood” ended.  It just faded into “growing up.”  Very fond memories then became life with Karen, Bryan, Dawn, and Marty.   

They Told Us So

Michel Wolff’s Landslide; Michael C. Bender’s Frankly, We Did Win The Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost; and Carol Leonning and Philip Rucher’s I Alone Can Fix It offer fresh examinations of Donald J. Trump’s presidency and lunacy.  On the internet I read a piece—which I cannot now locate—pointing out a common takeaway from these exposés: America’s forty-fifth president exhibits an obsessive, egomaniacal sense of self-importance and insatiable need to be extolled, if not venerated.

For those baffled by Donald’s exorbitant need for aggrandizement, it is essential to understand he really does believe “I Alone Can Fix It”!  I am, “The King of Israel  .  .  .  the chosen one.”!

This is not breaking news folks!  The fall of 2017, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump laid it out in precise detail.  Three dozen mental health professionals and others with firsthand experience agree that our erstwhile Man in the Oval Office exhibits classis symptoms of a “Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”  Donald’s niece and Clinical Psychologist Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough How My Family Crated the World’s Most Dangerous Man confirms this diagnosis.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5) defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as, “a persistent manner of grandiosity, a continuous desire for admiration, along with a lack of empathy. It starts in early adulthood and occurs in a range of situations, as signified by the existence of any 5 of the next 9 standards,

  • A grandiose logic of self-importance
  • A fixation with fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty or idyllic love
  • A credence that he or she is extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions
  • A desire for unwarranted admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonal oppressive behavior
  • No form of empathy
  • Resentment of others or a conviction that others are resentful of him or her
  • A display of egotistical and conceited behavior or attitudes”

That’s 9 for 9!

What a poor, frightened, tortured soul.

Biking Across America Without Leaving Home

A year and a half ago, I mounted my trusty Stamina stationary bike in Oregon City and peddled north on Interstate 205.  At Parkrose Heights I turned east on Interstate 84, crossing central and eastern Oregon and Idaho into Utah.  At Salt Lake City I took Interstate 80 east through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

On or about July 8, 2021, at 2,673 miles my navigator, Karen, advised me I had crossed the George Washington bridge into New York City!  Whew!

Where now?  North on Interstate 87 to Canada and back toward home?

Confession

Slightly edited from a few years back. I like to think it’s worth a second look.

**************

I wish you would praise me.  I wish you’d say I’m wise and wonderful, even when I’m not.  I want to believe I’m okay but I’m afraid.  I’m not sure.  I need to hear it from you.  Without your assurance, an irrational passion compels me to earn your approval.

Do you see how hard I work, the indecency I endure?  I’m an entertainer, promiscuous, a prostitute.  Bisexual, indiscriminate, nymphomaniac.  To feel loved I’ll sleep with anyone—well, crazy it sounds, almost anyone.  I accept insult, abuse, whatever it takes.  I don’t whimper or protest.  I love my work!

You have reason to be puzzled, amused, annoyed by my act.  When I play the four-year-old vamp in Mama’s dress; pull stupid stunts like a fifth-grade boy; trip over my feet like a Keystone Kop; beat up on myself like the Three Stooges, how bewildering I must seem.

Beneath the acts and disguises I’m fragile as a butterfly and exquisitely cautious.  If you ignore or scorn me, I’m crushed.  So, I play the whore, the clown, the fool.  I humor you, make you laugh.  I seduce, trick, beg, and bribe you.

Confusing, irrational, silly as I seem, I strive for your approval the only ways I know.  Please understand—while I rarely do—with all my incorrigible antics, with all my strength, with all my heart, I work to earn your approval.  Because it’s absolutely essential!

More than eight decades down the road, I remember what I knew before I “grew up,” before I learned to fear you.  Relationship, love, is all that matters.

Should I apologize?  You don’t know—or do you?

Capitalism, Communism, Socialism

Nature’s capacity to support human life exceeds our need.  Politics is a tool whereby humankind manages this abundance.  Prominent political philosophies are Capitalism, Communism, and Socialism.  I have a sense many Americans, like me, conflate Communism and Socialism.  It is crucial that we not be misguided by labels.  Since my thinking here is, at best, fuzzy, I go to my usual Guru, Wikipedia. 

“Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.  .  .  .  Decision making and investments are determined by every owner of wealth  .  .  .  whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.”  (My emphasis.)

By contrast, “Communism is a philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of a communist society, namely a socioeconomic order structured on the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social class, money, and, in some cases, the state.  As such, communism is a specific form of socialism.”

“Socialism is a political, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership of the means of production  .  .  .  social ownership can take the form of state ownership, common ownership, employee ownership, cooperative ownership, and citizen ownership of equity.”

Under Capitalism, Mother Earth’s resources are accumulated and managed according to a select group’s incentive for financial profit.  This model affords more booty to folks who are motivated to get rich, shrewd, lucky, or born to wealth.

Communist states own all resources, manage their processing and distribution, and employ everyone.  The Soviet Union had, and Cuba has, a Communist government.  As I understand, Chinese Communism holds private enterprise under stringent State controls.

On scanning Wikipedia and the Internet, the far-ranging details of how a variety of non-Communist governments implement Socialist philosophy made my head hurt.  Basically, they support free enterprise while assuring that all citizens, regardless of an individual’s capacity or willingness to pitch in, have the basics: shelter, food, medical care.  I think of non-Communist Socialism as Capitalism with a conscience

Boy and Girls

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz points out, “there is a difference between boys and girls.”  Really?  The Senator’s pronouncement denies or ignores significant and troubling truths about human sexuality.

Born with a vagina or penis and testicles defines us as biologically male or female.  During puberty most of us discover a sexual attraction toward individuals of the opposite sex.  For some however, unknown, perhaps unknowable, vagaries of genes and environment focus emergent sexual interest on folks of the same sex, both sexes, and other sexual aberrations.  Some discover themselves in a physically male or female body but thinking and feeling like the opposite sex.  Others, without regard to sexual attraction, feel drawn to dress as the opposite sex.  Throughout human history, individuals exhibiting  “abnormal” sexual proclivities have been reviled, persecuted, and killed.

I believe human sexual feelings are not a choice.  We are born with them.  I challenge Senator Cruz or anyone to argue that at age twelve or so a not insignificant number of humans decided, “I’ll be queer, bisexual, transgender, or transvestite.”  No one makes that deliberate decision!

Why are some of us born with abnormal sexual predilections?  Christians and Jews view God as the source of everything.  Is this His doing?  Or, does ol’ Satan sometimes trick the Big Guy?  

Whatever the reason, some of us have aberrant sexual feelings or identities.  They are wrong.  Fix them!

A pubescent male’s initiating to adult sex occurred waking from a wet dream of copulating with a man!  Born and raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the youngster launched into a battle between homosexual feeling and transgressions and living among a stridently anti-LGSBTQ church and culture.  When variant sexual orientation grew impossible to ignore, The Church initiated groups aimed at turning gay men straight.  The program emphasized men acting like men, playing basketball, baseball, football, working out at the gym, bulking up, and all the while, “Pray the gay away.”  After two decades of emotional and mental Hell, the young man finally trusted his wisdom and feelings and broke from the Church.

“Pray the gay away” and any remedy for what are, I believe, congenital givens are like praying, willing, tricking, or manipulating brown eyes to become blue or red hair to turn black.  Ain’t gonna happen!  Ever!     

Ted Cruz was high school valedictorian and cum laude from Princeton.  He is a very smart man.  But the Senator seems to ignore or deny basic truths about human sexuality.  Why?  For the answer, which explains much Conservative thinking, I am indebted to Saul Bellow, “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is great.”

The Poachers

Daddy set the coal-oil lamp on a wooden box beside the bed and learned to stroke hair from the sleeping boy’s eyes.  They opened.  “Mornin’ pardner.”  The eyes blinked.  “Ready for huntin’?”  The lad bolted upright.

“Chuck and Uncle Wiff will be here by five.”  Daddy rumpled the coal-black mop.  “Get dressed.”  He disappeared down the stairwell.

The boy threw back the flannel sheet and Mama’s quilt and perched on the edge of the bed.  Bare feet found bare floorboards.  Impelled by the cool attic and impending adventure, the seven-year-old fumbled into long-johns, Levis, plaid wool shirt, sox, and size six cowboy boots.  Holding the metal bail of the lantern, the boy started down the stairs.  He smelled coffee and bacon.

From the warming oven of the Great Majestic kitchen range, Daddy delivered plates of bacon, eggs, and slices of Mama’s homemade bread to the table.  “Want jelly?”

The boy nodded.  “Yes please.”

Daddy smiled.  From a kitchen cabinet, he brought a ceramic jar of apricot preserves. 

Father and son ate quickly, in silence.  Daddy drank coffee from a blue enamel mug.  The boy gulped milk from a glass tumbler.

Assembled beside the door were, Daddy’s 30-30 rifle and cartridge belt, a cotton bag holding Mama’s roasted mutton and mustard sandwiches and chocolate cake in waxed paper, and a burlap-wrapped water jug.

At the front gate, Buck, Daddy’s buckskin gelding, and Snip, a sturdy bay mare with a white diamond in her forehead, were bridled and saddled.  The crunch of hooves on gravel signaled Chuck and Uncle Wiff’s approach.

Greetings were warm but subdued.  Moments later, four quarter horses carried four horsemen through the shadow of a gate, across a barely visible bridge to the County Road.  With a blush of sunrise on their right, riders nudge heels against equine ribs.  The animals broke into an easy trot up the gray, gravel ribbon. 

As they passed “Zumadakis the Greek’s” yard, a silhouette set milk pails on the ground and waved.  The horsemen returned the silent salute.  On Easter, Mama, Daddy and the boy came to Pete’s for spit-roasted lamb, round loaves with Easter eggs in lumpy crusts, and sweet purple wine that made the boy warm inside.

At a deserted CCC camp, the road became a four-foot-wide trail through waist-high sagebrush.  They reined up.  Daddy and Uncle Wiff pulled rifles from saddle scabbards and levered bullets into chambers.  Grasping above the trigger guards, they rested the rifles’ but plates on their thighs.

Stirrup-to-stirrup the men lead.  Uncle Wiff’s voice was subdued but clear. “Pete saw that four-point, a spike, and some does below the canal.” 

Daddy pointed his rifle to the left.  “At the Forest fence we’ll cut west, tie up in the cedars and walk.”  Uncle Wiff nodded.

Stirrup-to-stirrup the boys followed.  And their minds worshiped every phrase, and every word.

******************

It really happened—more or less.

Cognitive Testing

Republican calls for President Biden to undergo a “cognitive test” got me thinking about thinking, how we assimilate information, decide, and act. How we think.

First, what is a “cognitive test”.  Folks much smarter than I conjure algorithms to quantify human thinking, verbal and physical skills, interests, “personality”—Whatever that is?—a host of behavioral and mental proclivities.  It is important to understand what a “score” on a specific evaluation really means, not be fooled by what we think it means.

To see how the results of some “cognitive” evaluation may mislead us commoners, consider “Intelligence Quotient” or “IQ” tests.  Alfred Binet and David Wechsler developed protocols for assessing human “Intelligence.”  German psychologist William Stern labeled standardize scores from these instruments “Intelligence Quotient” or “IQ.”  But, what really is “Intelligence”?  What really is “IQ”?  Simple and Circular as it sounds, IQ is a score on an Intelligence Test.

The assumptions supporting any mental or behavioral evaluation are crucial in interpreting its results.  Alfred Binet was an early twentieth-century French psychologist.  Dissatisfied with Binet’s revised “Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales” in assessing Belleview Psychiatric Hospital patients, a mid-to-later twentieth-century Romanian-American psychologist David Wechsler developed “Intelligence Scales” for adults and children.  To appreciate the biases in Binet’s and Wechsler’s scales, it is important to understand that each is rooted in beliefs about how thinking and behavior in a specific culture, at specific time, translate into success.

To illustrate how an IQ score may fool us, consider two young Americans Jerry and Luka.  Nineteen-year-old Jerry was born and raised in a middle-class Boston suburb, graduated high school with a 3.9 g.p.a.  Allow me to assign Jerry a Wechsler IQ score of 110, ten points above the mean.  Nineteen-year-old Luka was born and raised on a bayou off Terrebonne Bay, seventy miles southwest of New Orleans.  At age eleven Luka abandoned schoolin’ for a canoe, single-shot 22 rifle, fishing line, hooks, size “O” leghold trap, a scrap of canvas and two ancient blankets.  For eight years Luka patroled Louisiana backwaters, shooting ducks, coons, and possums, trapping muskrats, and catching channel cats.  Let’s assign Luka a Wechsler score of 90, ten points below the mean.

Scenario One: Hypothetically, lets transport these two young men to opposite street corners in downtown Chicago with clothes on their back, a second set in a backpack, and one hundred dollars cash.  Where might we find Jerry and Luka in, say, three weeks?  It’s fair to speculate Jerry will have acquaintances, if not friends, a room or apartment, is stocking shelves at Costco, enrolled in a Community College night class, and applying for student aid with an eye to a B.S. in Computer Science.  Luka?  Hard to say: alone, hungry, scrounging in trash cans, sleeping in alleys, in jail, worse?  Who’s the Intelligent one?

Scenario Two: Drop Jerry and Luka on opposite sides of a small island in a Pascagoula River backwater, with a canoe, single shot 22 rifle, fishing line, hooks, size “O” leghold trap, scrap of canvas, and a pair of threadbare blankets.  Where might we find Luka and Jerry in, say, three weeks?  In his native environment, Luka wouldn’t miss a coon, meal, or muskrat.  Jerry?  Again, hard to say: alone, afraid, hungry, mosquito-bit, snake-bit, worse?   Who’s Intelligent now?

I take this circuitous route to point out that a “score” on any human mental or behavioral evaluation, any “cognitive test”, may not tell us what we think it does.  What, if anything, does or could it reveal about Joe Biden’s or Donald Trump’s skills and qualifications for governing America?

Critics point to Joe’s infrequent, verbal hesitations or seeming mental lapses.  We don’t have to be over the allotted three score and ten to experience a “senior moment.”  I’ve done it; you have.  Regardless of age, we all have!  We forget, get confused, get the facts wrong, “mis-state,” mis-remember dates, names, events.  Research shows that “eyewitness” reports often differ in significant details. 

I’m astonished that folks who cry out for Joe’s cognitive assessment, blindly Champion a man three dozen psychiatrists and other experts agree exhibits classic symptoms of a “Malignant Narcissist Personality Disorder,” a diagnosed Mental Illness!  (The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM)).  We don’t need Sigmund Freud or another Shrink to make this diagnosis.  Look at the symptoms.  Listen to the man who,

  • called Hillary’s crimes “worse than Watergate.”
  • claimed attendance at his inauguration as one of the largest ever.  Videos show it wasn’t close to Obama’s.
  • assured followers Mexico would pay for his wall.
  • is a “stable genius.”
  • said dad, Fred, was born in a “very wonderful place in Germany.” 
    Trump senior took his first beath in the Bronx.
  • wanted America to buy Greenland.
  • alleged that Obama’s administration “begged for a meeting” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.  They didn’t.
  • announced I am “King of Israel  .  .  .  the chosen one.”
  • considered giving himself a Medal of Honor.
  • despite incontrovertible proof of global warming, planet Earth “will cool off.”
  • denied COVID-19 was a deadly threat.  A failure to lead that greatly exacerbated American’s suffering and deaths from the virus.
  • touted unproven oxychloroquine and suggested intravenous disinfectants injections to cure COVID-19.
  • rants that America’s wind turbines kill around 681,000 birds a year, while cars and trucks kill as many as 340 million,” (Traci Watson in “USA Today’s,” May 29, 2014) and Oklahoma State University’s Dr. Scott Loss estimates, “Communications towers kill 6.6 million  .  .  .  building windows kill 600 million.”  (David Schechter in “Verify,” Feb. 23, 2020)  What’s behind the former President’s newfound affinity for our feathered friends?  As always, follow the money.  Wind turbines replace natural gas and coal fired generators.
  • has absolutely no sense of ethics, morals, compassion, or humanity.
  • his Grand Finale was orchestrating and ordering an armed assault on our Capitol, Congress, and Constitution.

Cognitive deficits, Republicans?  Look in your front yard!

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Please Hear What I’m Not Saying–Poem by Charles C. Finn

Don’t be fooled by me.
Don’t be fooled by the face I wear
For I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
Masks that I’m afraid to take off
And none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that is second nature to me,
but don’t be fooled,
for God’s sake don’t be fooled.
I give you the impression that I’m secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me,
within as well as without,
that confidence is my game and coolness my game,
that the water’s calm and I’m in command
and that I need no one,
but don’t believe me.

My surfaced may be smooth but
my surface is my mask,
ever varying and ever concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don’t want anyone to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That’s why I crate a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated façade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation,
my only hope, and I know it.
That is, if it is followed by acceptance,
if it is followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself
from my own self-built prison walls
from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me of what I can’t assure myself,
that I’m really worth something.
But I don’t tell you this. I don’t dare to. I’m afraid to.
I’m afraid you’ll think less of me,
that you’ll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I’m afraid that down deep I’m nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate, pretending game
With a façade of assurance without
And a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of Masks,
And my life becomes a front.
I tell you everything that’s really nothing
and nothing of what’s everything,
of what’s crying within me.
So when I’m going through my routine
don’t be fooled by what I’m saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying,
what I’d like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can’t say.

I don’t like hiding.
I don’t like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you’ve got to help me.
You’ve got to hold out your hand
even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe from my eyes
the blank stare of the living dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you rally care,
my heart begins to grow wings–
very small wings,
but wings.

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breath life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
How you can become a creator–an honest-to-God creator–
of the person who is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from the shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
If you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
It’s irrational, but despite what the books say about man,
often I’m irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I’m told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to break down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

© 2012 Charles C. Finn
Used with permission and appreciation.