HOW TO GET YOUR FRIENDS TO STOP TREATING YOU LIKE A THERAPIST


When you’re talking to your friends, avoid asking “How did that make you feel?” When conversing, face them directly. Don’t let them lie down and start at the ceiling while you sit nearby, holding a note pad and a pencil. Do not bill them for your time. If they suggest sexual activity with you, do not protest that doing so will cause you to risk losing your license. If you’re not interested, just say so. If you are, go for it.

In fact, trying to maintain any type of stereotypical image is a barrier to true partnership with others. Even if you haven’t the faintest idea of who you really are, try your best to be that person. Stop acting. Drop the foreign accent, the expansive mannerisms.

What might at first seem interesting or evocative might prove tedious and false in the long run. Leave acting to actors paid to play a part. Unless someone calls “action!” and later “cut!” do not assume you’re on stage or in a movie.

If someone confides to you that he is angry with another who cheated him, or broke a promise, do not say “Does this bring up any issues from your childhood?” It’s none of your business. Try to focus on what this person is telling you here and now. Forget about fifty years ago. It was another time and another place, and you weren’t even there.

No, you would do better to keep the focus on yourself, and if engaged in conversation with another, do your best to truly listen. Drop the scramble to come up with advice before the other person even stops talking. Relax. You’re not a therapist. Not really.

MUSICAL MUSEUM


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As museums go, it was a real sleeper. Somebody had walked off with all the portable instruments, and the piano and organ were covered with mold. But I enjoyed the setting, nestled deep in several vacant lots.

 

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The groundskeeper was neither talkative nor helpful, but he did cast a menacing air that might curb further vandalism.

 

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There was a lunchroom just  down the road where the food was as cheap as one could hope for in these uncertain times.

 

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Apparently, the museum’s director is a graduate of Moscow State University, but when he returned to his home country for “continuing education” he was never seen again.

 

GREECE. Mani. Pirgos Dirou. 1962. Woman at graveside. "A Greek Portfolio"

 

I’ve heard his wife took it pretty hard, and is now housed in a nearby rest home, at the end of the one of the vacant lots.

So Excited


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We were so excited by the three new bridges across our divided highway. So this was the Progress we had been promised ever since the War ended! Just think of the high standard of living we’ll enjoy thanks to Atomic Energy and Free-Market Capitalism!

Let’s face it, motels used to be so modest as to be dumpy by today’s standards. There’s a new energy that is seeping into everything, a new confidence in a better future. I guess you could call it a “Hope In A Better Tomorrow!”

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Of course, not every building can be exciting. Sometimes, if you can’t see the sign you can’t tell what a building has been designed for. Is this a real estate office or a vacuum cleaner repair shop? No, there’s the sign, it’s coffee shop, or cafe as they say in France! Here in the Midwest, severe conformity and lack of imagination have their way with almost everything you see. That’s just who they are and they’re proud to let their buildings let you know!

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But drive a thousand miles to the southwest, and things perk up! Vacationing families can tuck the station wagon behind a saw palmetto bush and enjoy themselves at the pool, relaxing later at the piano bar. Like exhausted families, you can bet that lonely sales representatives need a good night’s sleep after a hard day of cold calling, and this is just the kind of place they can find it!

The Glamorous Lives of Most Expatriates


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Thailand serves the same function for the world at large that California served for the United States.  It’s the place you wind up when you bomb out of every other place.  Many an alcoholic abandoned his family in St. Louis or Omaha and drank himself to death in Los Angeles or San Francisco.  He was not alone in this, for there were legions of men just like him in California’s coastal cities, using alcohol to dissolve the shackles that bound them back east.

 

In many third world countries these men arrive from all over the world: Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States. They’re not in search of anything; in fact they’re in full retreat. The reason the language barrier doesn’t slow them down is because they’re not interested in communicating with the women whose services they purchase. When it comes to these men, there’s literally no one home. If you look into their eyes, it’s like staring at a stroke victim. Error Message 404 Server Not Found.

 

Some of them can still take care of themselves. They shower and shave. Others, not so much. It doesn’t matter to the ladies who are waiting for them to die. The younger bar girls have many of these men “one the line,” and their major problem is keeping all these geezers straight. The men return to their home countries, clean out another bank or retirement account, and then return to their “new home.” Often it’s a small room in a high rise. Often the room has a balcony for drying clothes and where the air-conditioner vents.

 

If the room is on a sufficiently high floor, the balcony can also be used as a final exit to the ever-diminishing existence these men have chosen.

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Could Be Worse


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How lucky can one man get? I ask myself this occasionally, when I’m not actively focused on what I lack. How much time do I have left? There’s no way to know that, so I might as well act as if time were running out and I’d better hurry.

These are the ways I drive myself crazy. These questions and compulsions come from inside me, not from outside. The world isn’t insane, I am.

If you hang around people who seem content, either they really are or they’re hiding their inner turmoil. Maybe serial killers seem to have the Buddha nature. At least we’re sure they have the ability to create a plan of action and follow-through. Those are qualities I sorely lack.

And then there is the issue of codependency. I’m always worried what other people think of me, how they feel at this moment, and those worries preclude any chance I could champion my own interests. Again, serial killers suffer from none of that. They don’t care what their victims think or feel.

But I am lucky not to have been born a serial killer, nor to have become one along the bumpy road of life. Yes, things could be worse, much worse. For this I am grateful.

IQ AND ME


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When I was twelve, I took an IQ test and scored a 75. The nun who administered it took me aside and sadly informed me that I was borderline retarded and should not attempt going to a college preparatory high school. She said I would be better off pursuing vocational training, like small engine or shoe repair.

Turned out she was right. A few years ago I took the MENSA test and passed, so I guess I got smarter in the interim. She was right about the vocational training suggestion, though. In the long run, I would have done better learning how to do something practical, and might have prospered if there had been an established need for my services.

Instead I tried to enter the world of college teaching and never secured a full-time position that would lead to tenure. I took social security early and live on a pension that would not permit me to live as anything but a charity case in America. Today, I live in Thailand, where my social security pension is enough to live without having to eat my lunches along with my homeless neighbors in church basements.

The reason I scored so low on the IQ test I took when I was twelve is because I was very angry. I had been repeatedly humiliated and stifled by schooling and it was all I could do not to leap out the window like young Jim Thorpe and run off into the woods. I could read better than any of the other students in my class, but reading facility wasn’t something the nuns measured. We were learning to diagram sentences, a grammar game I could never get the hang of because I saw no point in it.

To this day, I am very sensitive about the notion of IQ. Testing and schooling are not high on my lists of activities. From my time in academia, I never met a college professor I thought was especially intelligent. I met many people who knew how to follow rules, play the game, and kiss ass, but I met very few brilliant people.

Ah, yes!


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There’s nothing wrong with me that a brain operation couldn’t cure. Well, that and a methamphetamine injection. Actually, I always preferred Dexedrine, but it’s hard to get a hold of nowadays, so I’ll take whatever pharmaceutical stimulant I can get, but I don’t want home-made drugs. A man of my stature and status deserves only the best.

True, there was a time when I would ingest anything offered without questioning its provenance. Pieces of blotter paper with cartoon characters crudely inked, pills in various colors that somebody thought might be something-or-other but nobody was really sure. Down the hatch it went.

Sure, I had some rough times back then. It’s a wonder I survived, much less am not today warehoused in a decrepit mental health facility out on the prairie. I saw the best minds of my generation end up talking to little men who weren’t there. Many a callow youth became transformed into a hollow-eyed skinny person with peculiar muscular tics.

I admit that I have aged, but in most cases I am yet recognizable as the somewhat attractive person I was forty years ago. Less hair, more wrinkles. My once resonant speaking voice is now on the raspy side. I can often be found standing in a doorway looking lost and confused, having forgotten my purpose in moving about. I have learned to cope by feigning the professor’s “ah yes!” moment, and then moving decisively as if I had suddenly recalled my original intention, when in fact, nothing even resembling that has occurred.

Call Me Wheezer


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Call me Wheezer. I’m the asthmatic kid who couldn’t be counted on to do much more than react, slumped in the corner, watching with bemused interest. Or call me Lumpy, Wally’s overweight friend, the one without Wally’s good looks or Eddie Haskell’s sharp wit. I am Jeff’s Porky, and Sergent Joe Friday’s partner who kept changing every few years due to contractual disputes, ill health, or general lack of personality. I am Durward Kirby to Garry Moore. In all possible ways, I am Regis Philbin.