Sunday, January 28, 2007

Where do ideas come from?

WHETHER THEY COME FROM the unconscious, the spirit realm, or both, or neither, it's an amazing process -- and all the more so for its mysterious opacity. You feel sometimes like a passive conduit, an inbox just sitting there minding its own business. And then, when you least expect it, you've got mail.

Some poetic licenses should probably be revoked

POETRY IS THE one form of entertainment loaded with hoards of mediocres completely unconscious of the fact that they are supposed to be entertaining. Lest "entertainment" evoke only fun and jokes, I don't mean it that way. Entertainment is diversion that can evoke the entire range of emotions. But it should evoke something more than tears of boredom.

An Enigmarie, wrapped in a riddle

ONCE UPON A TIME -- on May 26, 2000, to be precise--I received a most intriguing e-mail from an "E Aguilar."* The subject line read:    


And the message:

Ahoy there Fellow!

I be the homeless one w/ a Howard Hughs' story. - Now again;
w/ out a place to lay my head in a few short days.

Hughs' attention for his generosity -apparently didn't help attract an eye for diliverance.

I'd like to generate intrest in a group living siduation like the 12 Tribes, but the possibilities are weak. Please inform as to your caution.

Thank you,

    What was I to make of this?

I replied:

Ahoy there matie! True to your e-mail address, your message was quite enigmatic. Could you explain yourself a little more? Who are you? Where are you from? Where'd you get my e-mail address? Are you associated with the Tribes? What does Howard Hughes have to do with your situation? And by the way, would you be related to one Minor Aguilar of Chicago?

This person wrote back. Marie Aguilar was the name given this time. She was of a certain age, which she wasn't eager to tell. She was from the Sarasota area. She had at least one daughter. She was somewhat of an artist (an "illistrator," as she put it), but also had experience as a personal trainer, but was hoping to find work as a doula. And she was in some sort of dire straits, the nature of which she was never at liberty to fully explain. And no, she didn't know anybody named Minor Aguilar.

But how had she obtained my e-mail, and why'd she write? Turns out she had seen an article authored by me in an online Christian newsletter. In that article I mentioned certain spiritually based intentional communities, and one of these was a quasi-Messianic-Jewish group called the Twelve Tribes. Marie had an interest in such groups, and she e-mailed me, perhaps thinking I was involved in one. She told me that she was of marrano Jewish ancestry and was searching for her Jewish roots in Messiah. Currently, she said, she worshipped with a "home fellowship" rather than a typical corporate church.

As for the homeless bit, I speculated she was fleeing some sort of abusive relationship. Since she was reticent to share many details, I didn't pry. But she was safe for the time being, she reassured me, and staying with friends. She was trying to get a deal on a mobile home for $8000.

She made quite an e-penpal. Her handle, enigmarie2000, proved apt. In subsequent emails, she continued with her quirky colors, formatting, punctuation, and colorful spelling ("inishally," "unfourtunatly," "uncertion," "perswations," "simmilor," etc.). She called e-mails "E-s." ("Guess I started looking forward to your E-s...")

Sometimes she'd sign her name:


And sometime she'd use totally off-the-wall subject lines, such as:

Massa Massa


-1 + +1=*

I'd ask her to explain these, but she never did. I figured: okay, eccentric artist type, I get it. But as poor a speller as she was, she seemed a very joyful, optimistic person in the face of all her trials, and always had something to share: a Bible verse, an inspirational poem, a bit of advice.

In one e-mail I apologized for not writing for so long because I'd been overwhelmed and struggling with various projects, and also, with a female person in my life:
The more I get to know her, the more I'm convinced we are really twins who were separated at birth. We are so alike in so many things (including favorite brand and flavor of tea) it's scary. ... Yet, we've had a little falling out over a communication problem and her mood-swing problem, which sometimes gets in the way of having a normal conversation. But I still care for her and I'm praying for her. ...

Marie wrote back:

Hi ya, _____ :) good to hear you sounding well. The girl, however much your ditto, may be a type of distraction. Use caution. Seek first His Kingdom so you have a safe Haven. I'm sure of your wittness, but as humans our biggest drawback is the glove attached to our soul. You are accepted in The Beloved & greater is He in you then he that's in the world. Keep yourself clean in His Word & approach her as a lover of the goodness & faithfullness of God before direction your affections too hastilly.

Too much to say now. I'll have to give you a couple of E- forwards to catch you up w/ me.

I love you my brother. God is working mightily in you! I look forward to the wonderful things He has in store for you
We carried on occasional correspondence for over a year. I even called her a couple of times: she had expressed interest in a marketing business I was involved in at that time, so we talked biz as well as personal and spirichal stuff.

But then her messages became scarce, and when they did come they were abrupt and created more questions than they answered. She was again homeless, she said, writing from libraries. She was on the road. With Olivia. It sounded like a dire situation. She asked me to pray that her vehicle didn't break down. Where was she headed? I asked her. Was she running from the law? She couldn't say.

Soon the emails stopped coming, and mine no longer received replies. So I said prayers for her, and life went on.

But I couldn't help but care about the well-being of this touchingly zany lady. Every now and then I'd try to Google her, plus her email addresses, trying to find any tidbit of information. Nothing came up.

After several months, on Nov. 17, 2002, she sent a message out to a list of friends, including me, with subject line:

Famous"in his words, this man used his influence to abduct Olivia Salisbury

To the message, she had attached a Google search page full of page hits concerning Enrico Wallenda. Yep, that's right, of The Flying Wallendas, of circus highwire fame.

That's when it all started to come together. She had been Mrs. Wallenda. They divorced and he got custody of Olivia. I don't know the circumstances or the justice of this decision; it does appear that Wallenda is a "famous freemason," and by many accounts, a Mason in court has a much easier time getting his way if the judge is also a "brother Mason," as many are. Whatever the case, in January of that year Marie Aguilar, or rather Edith Salisbury, her real name, had whisked the 7-year-old Olivia off on a wacky cross-country caper that culminated in San Diego.

But as part of a national law enforcement program, Olivia's face was plastered on "Missing Children" cards sent out by a direct-mail marketing company. As a result, when she and her mom were spotted at a San Diego homeless shelter in September 2002. The law was notified and soon Olivia was back home in Florida.

The latest news is that Olivia's training to be part of the next generation of the Flying Wallendas. I haven't heard from her mom lately. I hope by now she's out of prison.

[* last name changed.....]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

24/7 nostalgia

THE THING THAT'S so cool about growing old as a Gen-Xer is that for several years now, VH-1 has been replaying our entire youth for us.

This nostalgia barrage is a trap, yes -- but such a sweet sticky one. Who doesn't want to relive his formative years: the years when life was simpler, when everything -- especially music -- was just better?

In addition to transporting us back to carefree youth, the retro resurgence does us another favor by setting us up as guides -- elder statesmen of cool, you might say -- to all the MySpacing iPod kids who've never owned an analog sound recording and are just now discovering '70s and '80s music.

KID: Dude! R & B artists actually played real instruments back then? They had bands? Get out!

ME: Well, yeah. That was pretty much the norm until the mid-'80s.

KID: What's that thing their voices and instruments are doing? It's weird. But it makes me ... it makes me feel good!

ME: I believe you're referring to the melody and harmonies and chord progressions? Musicians used to know those, but they kinda went out of style in the '90s.

KID: Thanks to bands like the Killers (who I was into way before anyone had ever heard of them, by the way), I'm really discovering a lot of really cool, totally underground bands from the '80s who influenced them. Like New Order, the Cure, Duran Duran...

ME: [Erupts in peals of laughter.]

KID: What's so funny? Hey, do you like my ironic Hall and Oates t-shirt? [Glances around nervously, then whispers:] But just between you and me, I really like those guys!

ME: You know, some of their best songs were never even released as singles. You have to get the albums. Did you know they go all the way back to 1969? You know, Daryl Hall used to sing backup for all these Philly soul guys -- ever heard of the Delfonics? Anyway, he was with this band called Gulliver for a while. They put out this crazy album that sounded like the Beatles, with a little more soul. I might let you borrow my CD ...

KID: [Stares blankly.]

It's little perks like this that make growing old a little more tolerable.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm not here to start no trouble,

but I'm so tired of the Super Bowl Shuffle gettin all the play in the wake of the Bears victory, while the sweetest '85 Bears charity single of them all goes ignored!

Sadly, everyone hasforgotten Walter Payton's clearly superior song "Together As a Team."

Together as a team, we have a dream
Everyone can win together
If we hold hands in this great land
We can make life a whole lot better
‘Cause the people of the world, we are the ones,
Everyone should get involved,
If we hold together aloft our hands

Our problems can be solved!

By the way, what was that I heard about the '85 Bears returning to the studio to record a "darker" album?

Good art is the new "outsider art"


AND MUSIC BY MUSICIANS is the new punk rock.

Yes! So I have proclaimed it,  and so shall it be.

While googling the term "art about art" (because I got tired of encountering art about art ), I came upon this site.

"So long as most of humanity is permitted to compare and decide for themselves, Truth and Beauty, the twin sisters of the human soul projected through cyberspace into millions of homes, are certain to prevail," writes Art Renewal Center chairman Fred Ross.

Interesting. I leafed back a few pages in the journal sitting in my lap as I sat  reading Ross' words. There it is -- something wrote a couple of weeks ago:

BEAUTY + TRUTH ... are 2 sides of a coin, created by the same Creator. Truth is his Word and beauty his Work. But too often those given to Beauty neglect and scorn Truth, while those seeking after Truth give short shrift to Beauty.

I've not really kept up on cultural criticism about the fine arts, beyond perusing the conservative salvo Degenerate Moderns almost as soon as it debuted (and thinking: "Wow, those Bloomsbury people actually sound like a fun crowd...") I know a lot about conspiracies, and undeniably there has been a general conspiracy (or if you don't like that "c"-word, call it a "consensus" or a "contagion") to dumb down the American public. It also seems that modern art was part of it. Some would say the movement was skillfully siezed and its import vastly magnified by the CIA, allegedly for Cold War purposes. Encountering some skilled realists, and stumbling upon the ARC site, got me thinking again.

Cruise-ify him

TOM CRUISE IS a "Christlike figure" in Scientology? So says a high-ranking member of the celebrity-stalking cult.

At least, so says the British tabloid the Sun.

Or rather, so the Sun says of the Scientology source's saying so.

Ugh. I'm getting my typing fingers all tangled up.

Plus, I do not like to make fun of the mentally challenged.

I will stop here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"When we're not on,

we're not watching either"

ONE OF THE FUN THINGS about my career trajectory is that I'm probably one of few people to have both:

1) interviewed Daley as a reporter, and
2) nine years later, served him smoked salmon canapes as a server at the 410 Club.

I've also had the great pleasure of serving canapes to some of the same media people I used to compete with or rub shoulders with in professional groups. For instance, the NBC5 holiday party. Hey, there's Warner, who may or may not recognize me in the dim light as one of the supposedly smart up-and-comers from NABJ Chicago in the mid-90s. There's Carol, who exclaims "hi!" as if she recognizes me, though I don't think we ever met; maybe she's just all full of holiday cheer and her cougar instinct is coming out. There's Anna, whom I used to run into sometimes when I was editor/reporter of a community newspaper and she a newly minted reporter at Channel 5. We'd exchange a flirtatious smile and a "hi," but we were so busy. Not long thereafter I managed to piss off one of the paper's advertisers, got myself relieved from the job, and I was out of the biz for a good while.

Later, as I'm lugging HiBoy chairs upstairs up to the balcony, there's a nice-lookin blonde sitting by the now-closed balcony bar. She wants to know if it's still open -- or can I open it back up? I say sorry, it's closed and I can't bartend -- they haven't trained me on that yet.

"I always wanted to be a bartender," she remarks. She was a server once too, she tells me. The irony: when she finally got into her "real job" it only paid her half as much. But since that time she's worked her way up the pay scale.

I ask what's her job. She's an on-air reporter. I recognize her name only vaguely, because, as I let her know, I don't really watch local TV news.