Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chapter 2 - The Fifty Year Itch

It is the first Friday of summer, the start of our 50th year.  I am winding down the work week on the office front porch.  My father sits in his sturdy, classic white, high-backed rocking chair - afraid to rock and I stand beside him too uncomfortable to sit.  The depth of our conversation is narrowing. 

He wants to talk shop and I want him to realize just how fortunate he is. How, at the age of 85,  his ailments are minuscule compared to his quick sinking circle of friends.

“I started this business the same year you were born,” he boasts.

“Yes you did,” I reply.

He founded Kennedy Investigation long before there was such a thing as ‘no fault divorce.’ With a cocked camera, pencil and pad by his side he spent years in the shadow of adulterers; trailing unsuspecting husbands and less than perfect wives.  

Primed in high school track and football star status, he carried his competitive nature with him.  He drank and ate more than his share, balancing it all with a plethora of women.

He ran with the best of them; affluent lawyers, doctors, politicians and businessmen. He was free spirited, gregarious and fun - a welcome relief from the stiff tailored shirts and tight noosed neck tie’s his white collar friends encountered on a regular basis. 

When they offered him a referral he took it.  When they opened a door he walked swiftly through it. When they spoke of change he listened, hard. 

Greenwich quickly catapulted from a quaint coastal, New England town into a city overflowing with opulence and opportunity.  To match the demographic change, he restructured the company into a full scale - private sector security agency specializing in uniformed guards services for high profile corporations, grand scaled events and lavish homes.

“Who’s going to work Joe’s shift?” He asks
“Don’t worry Dad, I’ve got it covered,” I reply.

"Scheduling, its like a puzzle," he’ll tell you. "You have to know who knows each guard post and if you can’t fill a shift, YOU have to do it." 

This annoys me. I am done pulling guard duty. I have filled more than my fair share and I have paid a dear price for that.  I was trapped in a shift when, unknowingly, my son laid unconscious, waiting for me to rescue him. 

“50 years… can’t believe how much this town has changed in 50 years,” he adds.

In 1977 he moved his understated office above a string of trendy shops on West Putnam Avenue into a house owned by the family of a close friend.  A local lawyer who went on to become the first selectman of Greenwich. The even side of the street was business zoned, allowing him to transform 58 East Elm Street's Colonial Revival into a comfortable work and living space. 

“The house used to be on Greenwich Avenue.  Right where the new Ralph Lauren store is going,” he reminds me.  “They picked it up and moved it here back in the 50’s.”  

Crazy as that sounds - its true.  Imagine people uplifting full scale homes, in one piece and replanting them two blocks further down the road. 

“Will you look at that,” he says as he points at the ornate black iron rail adorning the second tier balcony of our newly constructed neighbor.  A 5300 square foot, federalist-styled brick town house stuffed into a ¼ acre lot - it’s perimeter brick wall butts exactly 8 feet from our foundation, “ewww, that’s gaudy!” he adds.

It’s “urban sophistication,” I tell him.

Because we are two blocks away from the chic shopping of Greenwich Ave, 30 minutes outside of New York City, and within walking distance to the train and Long Island Sound, our address is in high demand. 

You’ll hear the locals complain a lot about how much the town has changed yet its upscale essence remains.  A community infused in wealth, culture, and charm - a population of 60,000 thrive here along with one hundred of Connecticut’s largest corporations.  Museums, a symphony, polo grounds, and marinas interlace with  8,000 acres of protected land - including 32 miles of coast, 20 parks, four beaches and a municipal golf course. 

"They should have NEVER made the Avenue one way," he reminds me, "and you can't get a decent hot dog, let alone a burger now that Finch's is out of business."

Dad wore many hats before he struck it big. One of his favorites was "soda jerk" at the food counter in Finch's Drug Store.  It's been 20 years since Mom and Pop stores ran the Ave, trampled by trendy trademarks such as, Kate Spade, Baccarat, Tumi, and Tiffany.  If its a $5,000 vase you're looking for I can easily point you in four different directions - but nowhere can you find a needle and thread. 

The average net worth per person is 430 thousand, the typical home costs an estimated 2.4 million, and the combined real estate value exceeds 50 billion. Dubbed the "Hedge-fund Capital of the World," its easy to see why the affluent flock here. 

 “You can work three jobs if you want,” he’ll tell you, “You’ll never go hungry here.” This is his attempt at keeps us grounded. 

He lives directly across from the office, on the odd side of East Elm Street.  A modest two-family home he bought back in the 80‘s with hope that the restrictions would bend enough to balance out the lopsided commercial zoning.

“It’s a shame we can’t move the business to 61 …no telling how long we’ll be able to stay here,”  he grumbles.

He worries about a lot of things and I am high on his list.  “We’ll be here as long as you’re alive Dad,”I tell him, "besides where would YOU live if we moved the office to 61?"

The house has been a haven to many.  Kerry grew up here.  We lived in the second floor apartment until I married Eddie - my daughters father, in 1989.  When I moved out, Terry - Kerry’s father moved in.  When Kerry moved on, Terry moved on.

Kerry moved back to 61 East Elm when he returned to help run the business.  Mary and Jackson followed, granting Jackson the privilege of growing up in the same bedroom as his father.

Located in the heart of down town Greenwich, you can walk everywhere.  "No need for a car," my father will tell you.   Work, school, library, church, grocery store, drug store, restaurants and boutiques; everything is in close range and with my father, the sentinel, parallel and poised - you were certain you were out of harms way.

But the sentinel was not on duty the night Kerry weakened.  The blanket lifted, he lie motionless on the living room sofa - in the center of our haven. 

I should have known.  Why else would I have changed the classic children's prayer back when he was a boy of eight.  I remember the moment well.  We were sitting at the kitchen table, having just ingested an unbalanced dinner of cereal and banana’s.  “I’m the luckiest kid around,” he said “I get to have cereal for dinner!”  Kerry didn’t mind what we had for dinner as long as there was milk.  He would drink a gallon a day if I’d let him, convinced dairy was the key to a statelier physique. 

Now I lay me down to sleep, 

I pray the lord my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake....

The words gnawed at me.  So much so, that together, we re-scripted the prayer:

Now I lay me down to sleep, 

I pray the lord my soul to keep;

Make my days, happy and bright, 

and all my dreams be sweet tonight.

When I wake tomorrow morn’, 

keep me healthy, safe and warm.  

God bless…

When I wake tomorrow morn’, when I wake, when I wake...  as though somehow, on some level, I knew.  I knew he would ingest a fist full of sleeping pills and slip into a permanent slumber.

Green Monkey Tales © 2007 Shannon E. Kennedy

to be continued...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is PORN a Four Letter Word?

From Wikipedia….

PORN: The depiction of explicit sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual excitement.

What about porn is naughty, vulgar, or off color? 

We are all sexual beings.  If I describe a moment of pure, unadulterated excitement am I talking PORN?

The other day I caught my unsuspecting husband in the grocery store. I turned the corner and from the far end of the aisle saw a handsome, unassuming, calm, confident, man perusing the shelves in search of low calorie, carbonated beverages.  Even before I realized who he was, I was thoroughly aroused. 

Was I watching Porn? 
Am I describing Porn?
Not yet, what about now…

He grabbed a 2 liter bottle of diet Mountain Dew and held it firmly in his hands. It had his full attention, just as I did right before dawn, under the coolness of freshly washed satin sheets. 

Is this too graphic?  Is anyone offended?  Want more?……

He knows me well.  He knows my moans, my movements, the impatience of my breath.  He’s studied me for more than a decade and yet, his touch is neoteric and oh so erotic, and I am helpless.

Wow……this is fun!  The hell with you, now I want more…

He is tender.  He takes his time.  He wants to please me.  I stop thinking.  He whispers….I love you and I am his, forever.

OH Crap…too romantic..

His thrust is deliberate.  My tongue circles the sweat that drips from his brow and I pull him closer.  I fight to keep my eyes open.  I want to absorb every moment, see the pleasure of his stare.  I could live like this forever.

My hand caresses the firm line of his jaw, strokes his back, then rests on top of his well formed buttocks.  With both hands I force him closer.  I want more of him inside….

Wow……censor yourself Shannon!!! 

No, this is my blog and I’ll do as I damn well please!

Well….I’ll do as much as I can without checking the Adult Content box.

I consider gum smacking inappropriate behavior.  So does a dear friend of mine. I know this because she brought it to someones attention at a recent outing we were on. 

Four women in a car.  I am driving.  My dear friend is to my side. Two of her friends are in the back.  One is silent the other is smacking her gum.  Loudly

My dear friend warns her that it is offensive.  She apologizes.  The conversation continues.  I am in entertainment mode. 

It’s Sunday and we are out and about.  I’m happy to spend time with my dear friend but I’m missing my time at home.  After all, it is Sunday and everyone knows I watch porn at 4:00 on Sundays. 

I love the way it sounds.  Porn … Four….. on Sundays. 

It started off as a joke and then quickly evolved into fun. 

We watch all sorts of adult erotica.  Jenna Jameson is by far my favorite porn star.  I love that I have a favorite porn star.  I wonder if she's on facebook?

We watch old porn, French porn, Japanese porn. 

The Asian porn we’ve seen is really nothing like American porn.  There is no nudity or subtitles for that matter, only high pitched moaning as the camera focuses on a rapidly jerking shadow then climaxes to the soothing sound and sight of a gently flowing stream.

We watch educational porn, romantic porn, hardcore porn.  I’m even thinking I might start writing porn. 

And because I was in entertainment mode on that fateful Sunday evening, with my dear friend and her friends, I shared my excitement with them.

The following morning I received a call.  It was my dear friend.  She was offended by my conversation.  I had embarrassed her.  I felt terrible.  I felt utter sadness.  And then I wrote about it………

What’s wrong with Porn? 

And tell me, is Bird Porn off limits too?   You KNOW I love my Bird Porn!  Can't get enough of it.  And what about nudity in general?  or in the arts?  If I discuss nudity in public am I being inappropriate?  What is obscene?  What is off limits?  And what is this I hear about the lack of social intercourse in today's society?  Especially among our youth.

I’m embarrassed that I embarrassed my dear friend but I’m not embarrassed that I watch porn.   And if you are offended by my behavior or my comments please tell me so, in the moment, just as my dear friend told her friend who was “wildly” smacked her gum. 

The morning after, with the mist of her disgust still steaming,  I was asked if I ever censor myself.  The truth is, I’m trying really hard not to.

I have reached a point in my life where I want the world to see me exactly as I am, in full glory, bumps and all.  My days of keeping up appearances or impressing people are far behind me.  And I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

Hey, want to see my Bird Porn???

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

Thursday, November 12, 2009


It was my first moment of clarity, a brief glimpse at the meaning of my life’s true purpose. In the height of my pain, I reached a point where things finally began to make sense. 


Driving down a two-lane never ending highway headed towards Black Rock City, I can see from my rearview mirror the last drops of civilization wither in the blistering sun. It will be a week before I see a gas station, restaurant, or grocery store.

Easements of piercing hot gravel alternating with quick sinking sand warns me not to rest as mounding formations of free standing boulders embellish the sparse vegetation and parched terrain that is indicative of the vast Nevada desert. The odometers escalading mileage calibrates with the rising temperature of the trade winds, and I gasp in fear that I will no longer be able to breathe effortlessly.

“Water, plenty of water, sunscreen, plenty of sunscreen” is my mantra and no matter how far I turn the dial, nothing tunes in. AM/FM, cell phones, satellite, cable, internet, nothing works. It’s as though we have entered the abyss. 120 miles north of Reno, it is a desolate world all on its own. The last speck of civilization, a 24 x 24 square foot mini mart and single pump gas station had a sign above the entrance reading “welcome to nowhere” and I believe them.

My traveling companion is oblivious of my fears as she beams with intense anticipation of an upcoming world that I know nothing about. A scene she discovered several years back during her days of living loose in LA.

“Oh My God Shannon, you have to go! It’s so you. You’ll love it!” coached Karen.

Yes, yes its true, I am adventurous, but her double life description of this altered ego, non conventional event is nothing I’d seriously considered doing. For one, there are no comforts of home and I have grown accustomed to many comforts. To me her description of the mania mimics cluster fucks of schizophrenia.

By the time we reach the hand painted plywood sign that welcomes us to Black Rock City I am overwhelmed by wasteland that spills in front of me.

Once a lakebed rich in life form, this ancient four hundred square mile landscape now embodies only dust, sand and sun. Windstorms whip the harsh elements of the playa, creating a constant changing tide; an evolving canvas dipped in muted shades of coral, amber and gray. But for one week out of the year, fifty thousand people from all over the world journey here to participate in an experimental community; a radical exploration that units creative expression and self-reliance. The result of this experiment is Burning Man

I cannot say for certain why I am here. I am aware of the physical challenges and yet I arrive reckless, my tank drained to the point of reserve. I have never been attracted to the austerity of the desert, preferring the soothing motion of the oceans sway; and it’s been quite sometime since I’ve craved laughter, instead cloaked in restless isolation. Truth be told, I’m not sure I signed up with the intention of achieving. Instead wondering if, exposed to such harshness, I would simply perish; dolefully dissolve into the barrenness of this region.

“Newbie’s keep to the left,” calls a Burning Man greeter.
The line of cars waiting to get into Black Rock City is stretched beyond my sight.
“That’s you Shannon. You’re a virgin. Pull the car into the left hand lane,” orders Karen.

Karen and I have long been partners in crime, and although I am 14 years her senior, our heightened sense of adventure combined with an uncanny craving to be the center of attention, is the common thread that strengthened our bond.

“I don’t want to pull over. Christ Karen, this is worse than rush hour traffic. How the hell are we going to set up our tent before sunset?” Neither of us has ever pitched a tent and I for one have not gone a day without a blow dryer, let alone indoor plumbing.

Sandwiched between thousands of happy campers, I am the only one not smiling.

“Name please” asks the greeter.
“Shannon Kennedy” I answer with rocket speed.
“Shannon Kennedy is your playa name?”
“I - ah, I have no playa name?”
“Newbie, Newbie!” cries the greeter.

Is my red face evidence of my embarrassment, or has my fair, Irish potato skin already begun to burn?

Against my will I am escorted to a large multi-colored, two tiered roulette wheel and told to give it a whirl. When the wheel comes to rest; bells ring, car horns beep and everyone cheers. It is official. I will now be known simply as Limp Fairy.

Silently I greet the outbreak of eccentricity that now surrounds me. Masquerading in creative attire, participants pedal festively decorated bike, or cruise by in elaborately adorned golf cars, scooters or art cars. The exchange of money is replaced by the bartering of gifts. We have each brought our own food, water, and shelter, for there are no vendors or plush accommodations here. At journeys end we will leave no trace. The world we built leaves with us, its existence imprinted forever in our soul.

Under a veil of sweltering dust, we begin our journey through the streets of Black Rock City. Hard work and creative minds transform self-pitched tents and you-hauled trailers into hedonistic theme caps brimming with gaiety. Fervent participants build sculptures and interactive art installations; alluring the masses to touch, climb, ride, spin, engage, and explore.

“Isn’t Burning Man amazing!,” Karen declares.
I can not answer. Trepidation traps my breath.

“Cum to Camp Jiffy Lube, feel the difference,” bellows a brawny man adorned in a skirt constructed of 1,000 plus sporks (part fork – part spoon), silver space boots, and massive cherub wings; his head crowned in twisted tiers of plastic baby doll arms. Emerging from a conventional New England town; I am naïve enough to think his invitation is directed at me. “Step aside sweetie, you’re blocking my view!” he orders, his attention captured by the sight of a stately looking man, sparingly dressed in a leopard skin loincloth.

It is clear that I am not the norm here. Chivalry is most certainly dead. It is the first time I remember feeling like a social outcast; my indifference flashing with the intensity of an emergency vehicles rooftop mounted strobe light, warning onlookers of my obvious nonconformity. Did Kerry feel this way, I wonder? In his writings he described himself as an ogre - trapped in a world ruled by insecurity, living with the never-ending fear that someone would discover the bruises buried deep inside.

“Confess your sins, salvation awaits the remorseful,” shouts a man outside Camp Almighty, the entrance a reproduction of a catholic confessional booth. “I have nothing to confess,” I sheepishly reply. If only he knew the severity of my sins, I thought. Although, I no longer tell people, “I killed my son” I am consumed with guilt.

Inside Camp Almighty sinners crowd around a glow in the dark alter, passing psychedelic mushrooms along with carafes of home made, dandelion wine. I am intentionally close to breaking the one law that governs Burning Man – that there are no spectators; yet despite my lack of involvement, my offense goes unnoticed, concealed by the gaiety that overrides all regulations.

By day two, I am ready to embark on a solo expedition. My flask full of water, my skin slathered in sunscreen, I jumped on my bike and head towards the farthest point of the playa. Wind pitched sand stings my skin and my mind races on. Faster and faster I peddle, envisioning what would happen if I never came back. Would the clean up crew simply donate my belongings, return the rented SUV and notify my family?

Twenty-foot tall pillars, balancing two lanterns each, line the mile long pathway that leads to the Temple of Honor. It is undoubtedly the most spectacular structure at Burning Man. Distinguished for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty; it stands as artist David Best’s proudest creation.

A massive fortress constructed of curving, gentle swelling domes, spears and cones, rested on a square wood casing, forming an image similar to that of the Taj Mahal. Intricate black and white mystical illustrations illuminated the temple, accentuating its grandeur and holiness. The culmination of the artist’s painstaking efforts along with a troop of twenty volunteers would end in a ritualistic blaze, signaling the closing of Burning Man.

Inside the temple, I slowly survey the array of commemorations loved ones left behind. Beside a portrait of Buddha dangles a green monkey tagged with a red heart. A shabby, child’s stuffed toy that, like the tales of the velveteen rabbit, looks as though he has been loved real. Above it a sticker reads, “Believe in the Power of Monkeys.”

The site of this spawns memories of my son’s childhood and I smile, recalling how our pet bird ate an exotic, prepackaged food labeled “Monkey Chow.” For whatever reason, these two words always made us laugh. Over and over again, Kerry and I would compete for the best rendition of "Monkey Chow."

I have since turned this into a game for Kerry’s young son Jackson, and it too makes him roar with laughter. It begins with a bulging eyed stare as I slowly declare, "I AM SO HUNGRY,” pausing to watch his wide-eyed reaction, “I'M GONNA GET ME SOME,” and in my deepest roar, “MMMONKEY CHHHOW!!!!!!!" And then I eat his belly. This belly eating business is quite ticklish and when you’re two years old, the sillier the better.

It is the first time since my son’s death that memories of him bring me a smile.

"Live and Burn" was one of Kerry's mottos. Attending Burning Man was one of his desires. The Temple of Honor would give me a place to grieve, a place to pray, and a place to honor my son. And so, below the green monkey tagged with the red heart, I create my memorial to Kerry.

First, I hang a T-shirt my sister Colleen has given me. A white, Fruit of the Loom T-shirt with a computer generated photo of Kerry; his face morphed by improper alignment. A rainbow stretches across the back panel along with a line from the song, Over the Rainbow, “Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind.” Simple as it might be, I love this shirt. I love the fact that my sister, Kerry’s Aunt, cared enough to create a tribute of admiration. My eyes pierce with tears as I added a letter I wrote about my beautiful son, and attached to it a photo of Kerry holding his son, Jackson. This becomes my place in the Temple of Honor.

Crouched beside me, a woman reveals a shrine for her son Chris. Our son's were the same age. We exchanged chronicles of a turbulent era, realizing the interchangeable pain and vulnerability of our son's lives. Her son's drug abused lifestyle and overdose bandaging his depression and my son's suicide completed by an overdose. An overdose of sleeping pills - over the counter sleeping pills, three packages, ninety pills, crushed, mixed with his ice tea and swallowed. No one seemed to questions the motives of a distraught young man as he entered the 24 hours CVS local pharmacy. No one wondered why he might want to purchase three packages of sleeping pills - his palms sweating as he handed cashier number 7, two twenty-dollar bills and said, “Keep the change.”

Each day I spend hours in the Temple of Honor. I sit in meditation; write in my journal and cry. Reflecting on the twenty-three years I had with my son and pleading for an ongoing connection. It is heavy, it is hard, it is healing. It is everything I need.

The first person to read my letter about Kerry is a man wearing only a baseball catchers
face mask, chest guard, shin guard, jock strap, cup and cleats. And despite his well-guarded, protective gear, he was vulnerable enough to shed a tear.

A man wearing a hat that says "FUTURE" on it reads my tarot cards and tells me there is a male guide beside me. Always near.

On my last night at Burning Man I rest, kneeling in the dessert sand and watch the temple burn. In the crust of the crowd I go unnoticed, eclipsed by the throngs of joviality. I scan the faces of the pack, knowing I am a stranger to them all. Above me, the bright full moon glows. It’s massive full-body dangles in front of me, just outside my reach. So close that I can see with great detail the scattering of mare that defines the face of the man trapped inside. It was a full moon the night you chose to end your life, I thought, wondering if its power had somehow driven him over the edge.

The intensity of the blaze unbolts my pores and my body glistens, reflecting the fury of the flame. Entranced by the towering smoke tunnels that spew from its core, their dance coils upwards towards the endless dark sky; my mind plays images of my final glimpse of Kerry’s impish laughter. His beautiful, symmetrically balanced face, highlighted by the intensity of his crisp blue eyes, knolling cheekbone smile, and tone of his blush; “Ma, don’t get mad,” he teased, “I’m a 23 year old guy - I don’t always get you,” the backwards tilt of his head timed perfectly with the roll of his belly-deep laughter. I was certain he was laughing at me.

My eyes widen, overfill with tears that rhythmically spill out one by one onto my cheeks; slowly rippling down the crevasses of my face, to a pool at the end of my chin and jump into the barrenness of my chest. I do not wipe my tears away. I am not ashamed to cry. I wear my pain proudly.

As much as I try to remember the way he lived, I am haunted by the sickening discovery of his sparsely clad body stretched across the living room sofa. Cold gray skin covers his stiff - unresponsive shell. His mouth slightly gaped, his eyes pointing upward, frozen in sorrow. I came to late. I did not understand his pain. And so, he traveled on without me.

I would spend the next year of my life desperately trying to understand. Collecting every thing I could find relating to his suicide and suicide in general. The autopsy found no food inside his stomach, only traces of dark brown liquid, which I determined to be the ice tea he so frequently drank despite my warnings that the sugar base would eventually rot his teeth. The police report said it was seventy-two degrees the day he died. The medical examiners office listed him as one of 72 suicides in the state of Connecticut that year. Suicide is the third largest cause of death in men ages 15 to 25. Men tend to be more successful then women at completing their suicides. Most send an unheard cry for help prior to taking their life.

Still, I do not understand.

David Best walks the line of spectators that surround the blaze. I watch as he randomly stops to welcome buoyant bystanders. As his image mirrors mine his hand stretches out to greet me and I can see through his sleep deprived, blood shot eyes that he understands my pain.

His message is simple.
“It’s not your fault” he tells me.
“But it IS my fault” I quickly reply.

Without warning, David’s grip pulls me to my feet. His tone is potent, intolerant of my ache, “Let it go. Let your guilt go. It’s not your fault.”

Between tears and shallow gasps of air, I tell him about my son, about his final explosion of rage, directed at me. I explain how we grew up together, how motherhood motivated me and about how I no longer know how to live my life now that he has ended his.

“Your son didn’t leave you. He’s right here beside you, guiding you ever step of the way” insists David.

“Then why have I never felt more alone?” I cry.

“We all sign up for this journey” continues David, “it’s just like you making the decision to come to Burning Man. The pain and pleasure you experience will help you discover your life’s true purpose. Once you find it, you can live your life deliberately.”

“Live Deliberately” was of the many a phrases Kerry had scribbled throughout his journals. The passage touched me deeply. It became even more profound when my husband engraved it in our wedding bands; the exchange celebrated just three months after Kerry’s passing. Was I so lost in the endless stream of superficial wedding details that I failed to recognize my son’s desperate cry for help?

“Look within yourself.” David continued. “You have everything you need.” And with that he said good-bye.

I watch as David’s image bleeds into the blaze. In patronage, I remain until the amber takes its final breath. The crowd now gone, the stars cloaked in a canopy of ash, unable to direct me home. From a distance I can hear the faint melody of Neil Young's signature song, Harvest. It was the first album I had ever bought. I was 14 years old and had earned the money to buy the album by completing a sewing task my over powering Aunt had given me. She was surrounded by children and like Cinderella’s evil stepmother, enjoyed torturing girls that were not, in her opinion, good enough to call her own. Somehow these childhood memories seemed bigger, closer - like the glory of the harvest moon that dangled before me. Just outside my grasp.

Slowly, I drift towards the echo of my childhood. Neil’s voice grows richer, deeper with each mindful step. In the expanse of emptiness, a camouflaged mesh tarp draped upon a geometric shaped, steel shaft dome stands alone. An elaborate sound system coupled with massive speakers’ border the interior walls. In the center, an oversized rainbow striped Brazilian hammock is suspended at the axis peak. Eagerly I climb upon it and sway to the sound of Neil's cry. There, cradled in hope, I rest till morning comes. And though I am by myself, I now know I am not alone. My son rests peacefully beside me, rootless in the gentle desert breeze.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who's Watching ME?

You've all seen it in action, one minute your  posting "YES" to a request to attend  New York City's annual  Santacon "convention" and the next minute there's a facebook ad for Santa suits on the right column of your wall.  Or perhaps your bio lists you as a single father of one who likes cats and is a nudest at heart then BAM your page is highlighted with photo's of big breasted blonds tantalize you with promises of a better life, or at the very least pictures of herself.

I get it, believe me I do.  The marketing masses that be are sucking up our social networking information.  Voyeurism = Commerce. But what if it isn't part of your bio, what if you haven't  released it onto your home page and STILL they know. Emails, search engines, youtube, flickr.  How much can they get from an IP address?

This past summer I attended Burning Man for the 7th year in a row.  If you know me, whether it be personally or cyberly, you are very much aware of this and some of you have grown tired of hearing about it.  I have posted a general synopsis of this years experience but I have yet to write about the details.

So how is it Fox channel 5 is onto me?  No, not Bill O'reilly or Fox news, but The Simpsons.  When I caught a fall episode of Homer and the gang transforming into human eating zombies I grew very suspicious.  Yes it was their Halloween "spooktackular" special and cannibalism certain is gory but why now? Why this year?  The same year we Burning Man tribe mates dive into a delusional discussion on the benefits of eating Mark "Cooked" (aka the other, other white meat) and then institute a new camp theme of "Munchers" - Burners who eat human flesh, with our motto being "We Eat Orphans"  (orphans being first time burners).  Sounds crazy I know but it must also sound humorous or why else would Fox jump on it?

Not convinced?  Okay, lets flip the channel to NBC....

Thursday nights episode of 30 Rock revolved around a new cast member.  In search of fresh talent they hire an unknown Canadian actor who, until then, was working as a silver street performer.  They called him Danny but all of us at Green Monkey Camp know he's playing the part of Jesse. Jesse, one half of the silver couple.  Jesse, who has also done his fare share of street performing.  The impostors physic was similar but he lacked the natural good looks, talent and charm of our Jesse.  Their dastardly deed of comically cloning Jesse is in poor taste and down right despicable!   "Hey NBC, get your own characters, Jesse is real and he's ours!"

Onto SNL...

Saturday afternoons  typically involve some trivial babble left over from my work week. This Saturday I checked my inbox and uncovered a bitch slapping email from a client named "Mr. Jones."  It infuriated me to the point where, in an effort to purge the poisonous venom from my system, I wrote a make believe response laced with a variety of obscenities.  Although I didn't send this to Mr. Jones, I did forward it to Miss Pegged, a partner in crime and coworker.

Later that evening, half way through a "big bottle" of chardonnay, SNL punishes me, laps up my hate tainted attitude and resurrects Mr. Jones.  He becomes the focus of a rude, crass, nonsensical Mr. Jones skit. With eyes glared all I could hear was "Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones."

To make matters worse, they end the skit with a rendition of Deep Purples,"Smoke on the Water."  I despise that song, always have.  For me hearing it is a lot like pouring salt in a wound, getting kicked in the ass, or stabbed in the heart.  It was the same song Lynn Wolff used at our High Schools head majorette tryouts.  The same song we twirlers listen to when forced to perform her monotonous routine over and over again. 

At any given moment, there are tens of millions of people in more than 130 countries actively engaging in internet activity so why are they tapping into MY groove?  Is my paranoia worsening or are online industries monitoring my wayward behavior and charting it to set social trends?   If so, how long will it take before twirling becomes an Olympic sport and green monkey accessories are all the rage?

Stay tuned ........

UPDATE... just off the press...
the same day that I sent my "is Porn a Four Letter Word" email, the big O had a shOw about woman and pOrn.  Jenna was a guest.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

 It was easy to stay in bed this morning. The air is undeniably cold. I hate the cold. The sound of the waterfall, calming during the heat of the summer, creates a cerebral dip in the temperature.

As I walk down the carpeted staircase, I can easily detect the countless creeks of both knees and I wonder how many more years I can get out of them.

Alone in the kitchen, I fill my well splattered copper kettle with fresh water, position it on the best possible burner, and wait for it to boil. The earth toned travertine tiles, soothing during the summer months, now heighten my chill as I alternate my pink furry sock stance – left foot, right foot, left foot, right.

To avoid staring at the kettle, I turn to my freshly charged blackberry and check incoming emails - Junk, junk, junk, junk, Jesse, Jeanie, Pandora Bee. I trash the junk and read each email, twice. The water boils. I turn toward the slender end cupboard that boarders the kitchen sink, remove 4 slate blue ceramic mugs and rest them on the cool black counter. I then glide back toward the refrigerator, swing open the door and retrieve the milk. A brisk wisp of air, welcomed during the height of the summer, sends a shiver down my spine and I clutch my pink tattered robe tightly around my waist.

And then, in the middle of my dance, I pause…. I have no idea how you like your coffee. And Jesse, I’m not even sure you drink coffee. This bothers me.

I turn to find the sugar bowl half full, turn back to the cupboard closest the refrigerator, reach high to remove the box of firmly packed raw sugar and fill the while porcelain bowl. I need to find a sugar bowl that suits my personality. This simply will not do.

I turn back around to find that you are not here. This sends a chill down my spine and sadness across my face.

I reach for my cell phone, clasp it closely and read your emails once again. A warmth rushes over me, just as it did in the heat of our summer. I am no longer cold.

Shocked, Dismayed and Chagrined

Shocked, dismayed and chagrined; three words our high school history teacher repeated again and again and again. I remember his delivery and his smile well.

“Miss Kennedy, I am shocked, dismayed and chagrined by your lack of appreciation for the events leading up to the civil war.”

“Miss Kennedy, I am shocked, dismayed and chagrined by your inability to arrive at class, on time.”

“Miss Kennedy, PLEASE stop talking!”

“I’m not talking, I’m listening...”

“Miss Kennedy, I am shocked, dismayed and chagrined by your illogical retort.”

Mark and I grew up less than a mile from each other. From Kindergarten to graduation, we shared the same schools, same school bus, same lunch line, same disdain for rural-underdeveloped country logic, and the same yearning to leave it all behind.

Separated by a long stretch of a two-lane highway, a feed mill, a candy shop, a killer hill and four bars, we managed to completely avoid each other until our 20th high school reunion.

We were both one of five children. His father and my step father were both semi functioning alcoholics. My step father died prematurely from cirrhosis of the liver and malnutrition. Mark's father died prematurely from liver cancer. Both smoked, both avoided their families, both had explosive tempers and erratic work habits. I often wonder how our mothers coped with no money, no man, and no way out - weighed down by children, wild rebellious children.

We were on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard when he wondered, out loud, whether or not I wanted to get married.

I didn’t, but I loved him so fiercely that I said yes.

The three years we’d been together had been volatile. We lived a disjointed, brutally co-dependent yin-yang lifestyle churned in fury followed by long stretches of uncomfortable silence. He would accuse me of being addicted to rage and I would accuse him of being emotionally inept.

So when he pulled a small, neatly wrapped box from his neatly pressed khakis and handed it to me- I had no idea what hide behind the glossy Persian blue wrapping and snappy white bow.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Open it,” he replied.

The unveiling revealed a black velvet box with a stunning Lucida square cut Tiffany diamond ring propped inside.

I was puzzled.

“what is it?” I asked.

“it’s a ring,” he replied.

“why?” I asked.

“Why is it a ring?” he asked.

“NO, why are you giving me a ring?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to get married,” he announced.

Now I was shocked, dismayed and chagrined. Marriage was the last thing on my mind and the last thing I ever expected him to suggest.

We had never discussed it, as other couples often do. He had never been married, never been engaged, and never lived with a woman other than his mother and I, for all the wrong reasons, married pretty much every man I had ever met.

Even more confusing was his Cheshire cat smile. He appeared quiet pleased with himself and I was convinced he was completely mad.

I wasn’t sure if we’d survive the rest of our vacation let alone the rest of our lives together, but even so, I said yes.

The following day we went to the infamous nude beach at Gayhead. I’ve always felt insecure about my physical attributes so the thought of me prancing freely on the crab littered clay beach sounded preposterous.

But now we were engaged and I thought "what the hell" let him see my slowly sagging almost 40 ass. Let's see if that wipes the smile off his smug little face.

It didn’t.

And then, something miraculous happened. The fury and uncomfortable silence was replaced with a disorienting contentment, a calm, gentle, intoned alignment of previously mismatched souls.

Where did it come from and how did he know we’d find it?

His trade mark silence was now eclipsed by the shimmer from his token of admiration and the unspoken pledge of his love, now, and forever.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison