Saturday, August 4, 2012

Night Terrors

I suffered from night terrors when I was a little girl. I must have been about 7 when they started because it was shortly after my kid sister was born, two weeks before my seventh birthday. That birth was one of the prime suspects among the psychiatrists and psychologists I was suddenly dragged to see.

I really don’t recall the terrors per se. I do remember being scrutinized by my mother and father every mother: “How do you feel this morning, Honey”? And looked at long and meaningfully. At some point my older sister filled me into the vibe change.

“You know you wake up screaming every night.” she said. And something to the effect of “What’s up with that”?

I had no memory of these episodes but apparently they happened every night and after responding to my screams my parents were at a lost how to assuage my delirious rants which went on for hours they tell me. After a few months of this unsettling state of affairs, everyone was exhausted.. They were pretty sure I lost it.

Thus began the parade of professionals. School shrinks, “How do you feel about your little sister”? Then outside shrinks: building blocks and ink blot tests. Then the real big shot mental health experts in Chicago (we lived in the suburbs). More ink blots, interviews, regular visits. Every night the screaming continued (I was told). I still remembered nothing, which they found suspect because I was conscious in some way through much of it. But with one exception it was all a blank for me.

I remember the one exception rather vividly since I was, as I say seven. I sat in one of the bathrooms fussing with my father. He was trying to reason with me but he wasn’t having much success and he was frustrated. I kept whining that I wanted a piece of cake; why wouldn’t he give me any cake. There wasn’t any cake. I would give you a piece but there is no cake. And I kept insisting there was cake. It was birthday cake and I wanted a piece why oh why couldn’t I have a piece. And I was quite over the top about it. Crying and bitter, and angry as hell. That’s the only fragment I have any memory of.

I remember their exhaustion, their frustration their helplessness in the face of no answers from the doctors. I had a vague uneasiness they thought I was crazy and might put me someplace. But the consensus seemed that I seemed pretty well adjusted, about the new sister and whatever else goes on in a young kid’s mind and finally the doctors decided to look for a medical answer to all this. They ran a battery of tests, and shortly had an answer. I had a kidney infection of some sort. They treated me with antibiotics and immediately the night terrors stopped!

All was well and peaceful and normalcy settled in our home. I did still have nightmares and recurring ones. But they didn’t cause me to wake up screaming, or if I did, my scream woke me up. No in between the conscious and unconscious world for hours on end.

That is, until a couple of years later, after I turned ten. My father woke me up one night and asked if I knew why the front door was open and I said no and went back to sleep. The next day after more questions, I remembered walking down the street, a dark empty street. For the next couple of years I wandered in my sleep. And was discovered sitting on the front lawn, sitting in the empty bath tub, taking several midnight strolls again. Again I had little recall except the first night I was questioned and then another peculiar incident. I woke up, sort of and found myself feeling my way along the wall in the hallway into the kitchen. I remember thinking, why am I fumbling about, like a blind person, when I can see, my eyes are open?

I made a right turn and turned the door knob to the guest room, where my parents had guests spending the night. A prominent business associate of my father’s. I regarded them lying in bed, sound asleep, and calmly pulled my finger out of my nightgown pocket and pointed it at them, as if it were a gun. Then I loudly shouted “Bang, bang, you’re dead!”

Which woke us all up.

I couldn’t go to camp that year seeing as the cabins sat a few hundred feet from a cliff over a roaring creek. And they put an alarm on the front door. Then one day the walking stopped.

And I started flying in my dreams. Most of the time there was no plot to my flying dreams; I was just flying around the neighborhood, looking around. I still fly sometimes, usually now it’s cross country. I live in New York; the rest of the family is in California. I go to visit them

Lucky's Journey

Lucky Luciano Kozeluh, extrovert, was grinding pickles, lavender and gardenia petals in the cog to make his own melange of milquetoast. He was the Duke of Canterbury, the milkman in the empty quarter of our universe. Although, we realize there is a certain other universe whose meaning is infinitely deferred. Wherever we are content, that is our country. But Lucky Luciano Kozeluh was not content. And so he traveled.

But what did he know? What was unspeakable was his rendezvous with ruin, his lackadaisical date with too many tomorrows. It remains to be said and silence reigned in the displacement, the movement of all such discussions. The discussions in his, ultimately, in his head.

The discourse lay bare the knowledge that, if it does not determine action, is dead to us. That character is simply habit long continued, and horror is the soul of the plot. We cannot, nor will we ever want to, answer these questions, the ones of our making or not. And Lucky could never be in the position to find that every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.

He was an extrovert. He was a man who did. He wasn’t a writer, per se. He could be a thinker and an inventor of sorts. Isn’t every man, the inventor of his own premise? That were to be, his very life? And Lucky knew about life. About his life anyway.

And he feared it. Feared it in a way, because so many people are afraid of freedom. They are conditioned to be afraid of it. So they necessarily restrain themselves. Inhibition is not unnatural…civilizations are built on restraints. But those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; he told himself, whenever he held back from what might bore him, eventually. In life, you must choose between boredom and suffering. Otherwise, you’ll be old and you never lived, and you kind of feel silly to lie down and die and to have never lived. We are always getting ready to live but never living. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Fortune favors the brave, but the facts speak for themselves. The devil is God’s ape. And the gorilla that sat on Lucky’s back was getting hungrier by the day. Nothing in excess, was easy to say, if you didn’t know the tale of this journey. Sometimes, the road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom. But this road looked like it ended in a place called nowhere. He had to find a way. A chance to change direction.

For, except our own thoughts, there is absolutely nothing in our power. Burning is no answer. I accuse, he said, whirling forward and throwing the monkey off his back. To want to be free is to be free, and there is nothing to fear but fear. Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth, and right now, Lucky was having a vision. Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. The education of the will is the object of our existence and knowledge is the antidote to fear. Victory is a thing of the will; a man could stand up!

But he was going someplace with this, wasn’t he? Didn’t he, after all, have an agenda, a date, an appointment in time? He had to be off. He was late, overdue. He the extrovert, had become a thinker, a poet, a writer, a mime, a discoverer of the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.

The voices wouldn’t stop in his head. A poem that is hard to get rid of is a voice that is hard to get rid of. And a voice that is hard to get rid of is a man. It is part of the tradition. Tradition does not mean that the living are dead; it means that the dead are living. Living in our head.

Only a cheap curiosity could desire personal immortality. Man is immortal, but not men. We swim in the ocean that runs through time. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Lucky drank. He drank from the waters of his ancestors’ thought. He said: “Who then are the true philosophers? Those …who are the lovers of the vision of truth. Art is the communication of ecstasy, and as all things change, yet nothing perishes. And once a thing is written down, it will not be unwritten … once the word is written.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Noise. Everyday I wake up to a jack hammer. Now they have automated ones that don't need a man to operate. At least with the manual operated ones the guys had to take a break now and then, I read that they could only do it so many hours and then by law they had to stop because it messed up their insides so bad. Can you imagine? It can't be good for you. And I always thought though that all that vibrating would help them lose some stomach fat but all the guys I ever saw operating them had big old guts that fell over the handles of their jack hammers.

Anyway, now they got machines. and between the building on 95 St that they're putting up, and they just finished redoing the sidewalk on Third, right in front of my building and now I walk out and they (I don't know who they are either) are digging up the sidewalk across the street at the corner of Third and 95th St. And at 96th between Lexington and Third (but closer to Third, of course), Con Ed is doing some kind of work that entails drilling and other assorted NOISE (and they also do something regularly on 96th between Third and Second).

And speaking of Second Avenue they just broke ground on the Second Avenue subway. So between all of those areas that somebody is digging up, putting up, or tearing down, I have a situation where I live that I can't get any peace and quiet. I don't have double pane windows either, which would help. So even if it's not that hot, leaving my windows open right now is unbearable. So I close them but because it is too hot to just keep them closed I need to turn on the airconditioner. Which costs an arm and a leg. The rates go up in the summers, which is fucked. Con Ed has a lot of nerve, but that's a whole other story, or chapter, but I will go into it because it's on my mind.

But back to the noise. My upstairs neighbor, he's a nice guy, I've known him for twenty years, we were in an acting class together, how we ended up living right on top and below each other is mystical, but he plays piano. He practices two-three hours a night. Right above me. At about the time I like to either take a nap or write.

You'd think around three or four in the morning it would be safe to open my windows and get some real air but then there's those motorcycles that removed the mufflers and should be off road, but they're not and when they rev up it could wake the dead. I called the cops once about it, the decibel level is off the chart and he said “What do you want us to do about it? Chase them?” Hmm. Hostile to me, right off the bat. Like if they actually cared about the people who live here in the city, they could measure the noise and yes, there's a thought, pull them over! But cops don't care about the citizens; they're pissed off because we live here and they don't, because they can't afford it. As if we can. Plus, unless you mow someone down, you will never get a ticket in this town. And even then, that's all you're going to get, a ticket. You could be doing a hundred miles an hour in a school zone and a cop would sit on his ass in his car and watch you zoom by. It would never occur to a NYPD to give you a ticket for speeding. Drivers have carte blanche in this town. It's an unspoken assumption.

Cops are pissed off in general. That's the kind of people that are attracted to being a cop. Those and the ones who have a strong sense of justice, right or wrong, black and white type of guys, and I don't mean race, although that sometimes applies to them all too often as well. It's like nurses; they either are sadists because the job offers the perfect opportunities to torture people, being helpless and sick, or they're saints, selfless and all.

But most of the cops I ever knew are legal thugs. Like politicians. Hitler, Bush Cheney, they know where the real money and power is and they went for it. Like Cheney said once, he had other priorities.

But back to the noise. Sometimes I think I shouldn't live in the city. I'm very susceptible to the noise. I wonder how loud it was fifty years ago.

Tears for Diego Garcia

Really bad things happen to people and you never hear about it; their stories becoming footnotes in obscure daily papers, visceral images seared into your brain and never forgotten should you stumble upon their misfortune or demise. Bearing witness can become a burden suddenly, without mercy. That's how I felt about Diego Garcia. It was the end of our innocence. Sometimes I wish we'd never stumbled upon it.

Have you ever heard of Diego Garcia? Probably not. Not to be confused with Diego Rivera, the portly muralist who was questionably married to the tragic figure, painter Frieda Kahlo, Diego Garcia is a British colony lying midway between Africa and Asia in the Indian Ocean, one of 64 unique coral islands that form the Chagos Archipelago. You might have heard of it in passing: “American B52 and Stealth bombers took off from the uninhabited British island of Diego Garcia to bomb Iraq (or Afghanistan).” Uninhabited, they say.

As in when, in the 1970's the Ministry Defense in London fabricated: “There is nothing in our files about a population and an evacuation.” It was technically a British colony but they hadn't paid it much mind for over fifty years when its chief commodity--sugar?-- stopped being profitable. This freed up the indigenous population to have a happy life. All that changed when the admiral decided it was the perfect location for a military base.

First settled in the late 18th century, at one point at least 2,000 people lived there. With thriving villages, a school, a hospital, a church, a prison, a railway, docks, a copra plantation; it was a gentle Creole nation. Missionaries shot a film there in the 1960, and it reveals a grainy picture of the islanders' beloved dogs swimming in the sheltered, palm-fringed lagoon, catching fish. Chagos Islanders called it Paradise.

In 1961, an American rear admiral stepped foot on this little piece of paradise and marked Diego Garcia the site of what is today one of the biggest American bases in the world. Today there are more than 2,000 troops, anchorage for 30 warships, a nuclear dump, a satelite spy station, shopping malls, bars and a golf course. “Camp Justice,” the Americans call it

In the 1960's in high secrecy, Harold Wilson's Labor government conspired with two American administrations to sweep and sanitize the islands--the terms used in American documents. To purge the population the Foreign Office invented the fiction that the Islanders were merely transient contract workers who could be returned to Mauritius, 1,000 miles away. As their cemetaries testified, many islanders traced their ancestry back five generations, but, as one Foreign Office official wrote in 1966, the aim was to “convert all existing residents....into short term, temporary residents.”

Later that same year, Sir Paul Gore-Booth, the permanent undersecretary at the Foreign Office wrote, “We must surely be very tough about this. The object of the exercise was to get some rocks that will remain ours. There will be no indigenous population except seagulls. At the end of this is a handwritten note by D.H. Greenhill, later to become Baron Greenhill: “Along with the Birds go some Tarzans or Men Fridays...” Under the heading, “Maintaining the Fiction,” another official urges his colleagues to reclassify the islanders as a “floating population” and to make up the rules as we go along.”

The documents leave no doubt the cover up was approved by the prime minister and at least three cabinet members, and it appears only one official was even worried about being caught, writing that it was “fairly unsatisfactory” that “we propose to certify that people, more or less fraudulently, as belonging somewhere else.” No concern can be found for their victims.

At first the islanders were tricked or intimidated into leaving. Those who had gone to Mauritius for urgent medical treatment were not allowed to return. As the Americans began to arrive and build the base, Sir Bruce Greatbatch, the governor of Seychelles who had been put in charge of the “sanitizing,” ordered all the pet dogs on Diego Garcia to be killed. Almost 1,000 pets were rounded up and gassed, using the exhaust fumes from American miltary vehicles.

“They put the dogs in a furnace where the people worked,” says Lizette Tallatte, now in her 60's, ... “and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried.”The islanders took this as a warning, and the remaining population were loaded on to ships, allowed to take only one suitcase. They left behind their homes and furniture, and their lives. On one journey in rough seas the copra company's horses occupied the deck, while women and children were forced to sleep on a cargo of bird fertilizer. Arriving in the Seychelles, they were marched up the hill to a prison where they were held until they were transported to Mauritius. There they were dumped on the docks.

As they fought to survive the first few months of their exile, child deaths and suicides were common. Lizzette lost two of her children. “The doctor said he cannot treat sadness.” she recalled. Rita Bancoult's husband suffered a stroke and died when told his family could never return home, and she lost two daughters and a son. She did not want to discuss the details of their deaths. They were ravaged by unemployment, drugs and prostitution, maladies of a broken people that were alien to them before they were wrested from their homeland and deported/dumped. “and when their dogs were taken away in front of them, our children screamed and cried.”

From "Diego Garcia: Paradise Cleansed" by John Pilger