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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dreams Part 2: Hope + Dreams / Fear; 2 Opposing Sides of the Same Coin


            Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been imaginative. It’s who I am, and I like how it defines me. To this end, my ONE WORD (see Evan Carmichael’s book of the same name) is “DREAM.” It defines my goals of how I want to see things, how I write my novels (brainstorming heavily to the point my dream world characters are almost real), and pretty much how I live my life.
On the radio, we hear, “Life is but a dream,” “Be your teenage dream tonight,” “Dream until your dreams come true,” “You make my dreams come true,” “Sweet dreams are made of this; who am I to disagree,” “It was all a dream,” “That’s what dreams are made of,” and “Say you’ll see me again, even if it’s only in your wildest dreams,” among other things that talk about dreams and dreamscapes. After all, couldn’t just about half of Jimi Hendrix’s catalog be about some surrealist fantasy?
Dreams are everywhere we turn. Whether nocturnal, daydreams, or nightmares, dreams make up the basis for all that we are in straightforward or symbolic fashion. They guide us and provide insight into our world. I have no idea why many of mine are like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where I run in and out of bizarre-o places in my life with people who are in no way connected to each other, let alone the people in them, but such is my dream world.
In my wide awake world, I contemplate the dreams of other people and their reflections on dreams. For instance, “What happens to a dream deferred?” asks Langston Hughes who also tells us to “hold fast to dreams for when dreams go life is a barren field frozen in snow.”  I like that poem. It feels more positive than when he inspired A Raisin in the Sun.


Just like Obama’s hope, the future is based on making dreams real to achieve what we want for a better tomorrow. We need vision and possibility in a manner that is similar to Walt Disney saying, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I think that’s what makes a lot of our science fiction writers great (especially if they’re read by STEM kids who become unlimited potential adults).


As a toddler / preschooler who was consumed in his own dream world, I was described to my parents by a doctor as being someone who marches to the beat of his own drummer when they had worries about my socialization skills (I tended to be by myself a lot, which I still find comforting, though I find it easy to speak to large groups – thank you Air Force basic training punishments – and open up and be comfortable with my wife and some others). From an early age, I preferred to associate with things like Star Wars and the figures that came with, and as I got older, I found myself caught up in baseball statistics. I was never good at the game, but the numbers meant something to me. I could almost see them played out before me like some larger than life hero.


As I became an adult, my interests moved from music to literature, where I could better find ways to grasp life. For that matter, I still can find myself dreaming images of what I’ll see on a map. I know, I must be strange, but such is me. It’s part of the introspective creative mind I am. Here, this is much like Henry Miller, who once said, “Once in a great while I came across a being whom I felt I could give myself to completely. Alas, these beings existed only in books. They were worse than dead to me- they had never existed except in imagination. Ah, what dialogues I conducted with kindred, ghostly spirits! Soul searching colloquies of which not a line has ever been recorded. Indeed these “excriminations,” as I chose to style them, defied recording. They were carried on in a language that does not exist, a language so simple, so direct, so transparent, that words were useless. It was not a silent language either, as is often used in communications with “higher beings.”
Nevertheless, as I grow older, I do enjoy being around people and hearing what they have to say, especially when it comes to things that they have seen and expressions of life that they feel. I have met some inspiring people in my time, and I feel drawn to them. I would love to meet more people like this. Jack Kerouac wrote it best in On the Road, by typing out the words, “They rushed down the street together, digging everything in that early way that they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’" 
Other times that I am with people, I may be quiet because I’m not really good with the superficial except as related to things like music, hiking, baseball, movies, and seeing the world and its natural wonders. I often find it hard to enter into conversations without comparing situations to my experiences or interviewing people with lots of questions. Sure, I can wax intellectually on the news, but I really am starting to loathe that this ends up in political discussions (though I feel several brewing on the environment, education, and healthcare, but I digress and hold that one that I started writing until later). To this end, when I’m around true conservatives, I tend to feel moderate. When I’m around farther left liberals, I don’t relate at all. That said, I do have parts of me that understand and relate to the left and right. I guess I’m just Eugene O’Neill’s hairy ape.
It’s times like this that I compensate by enjoying me time. Either I’ll drift off in the wormhole (like Jodie Foster in Contact) or opt out of that world to go hiking. If I can’t do that, I tend to like to write (especially when I have the time to do that like I do today). Last night, I read a great article about drifting off into the woods for me time to take a dip in Nature. I really liked it, and I hope that in whatever way you, the reader can, you choose to enjoy time in unspoiled natural beauty as often as you can. It really does recharge our batteries (brains and souls).


On that note, currently, I have been spending as much time as possible (when I’m not grading student work or working to get ready to teach the coming units) in trying to finish up my 3rd or 4th book (depending on how you look at the 2-part Dead Mouths (named after a quote from Pablo Neruda – I’ve come to speak for your dead mouths”), which I finally finished and put on Amazon’s Create Space last October). This book, like my 600+ page Dead Mouths and my first book Eureka in Flames, are all part of a long series entitled Blackrock Canyon. Much of the book deals with the surreal and prophetic nature of dreams and how they predict horrific events that will occur in the recesses of a hidden canyon located around a Utah ranch, which contains many archaeological relics that are cursed by ancient tragedy. Over the past 2+ years, I have created an alternative universe populated by Tony Lucas, Colin Jameson, Bart Doherty, Dave+Charlotte Robinson, Suzie Heilman, Charles “Chuck” Jones, Abraham “Wolf” Owens, Marcus Powell, and a host of other people who are working to battle evil in its darkest forms. In many ways, the story is a mix of the first season of Heroes (normal people brought together to save the world – both through fate and natural law enforcement / military abilities and supernatural ones that they do and don’t understand), The Walking Dead (I love the character development of that show), and all of the television ghost, aliens, and monster shows, not to forget movies by people like M. Night Shyamalan.
You can read samples here.
My facebook writer's page is here.


When it comes to entertainment, I like the idea of suspense and supernatural entertainment. I also like action / adventure movies, but I will say I’m not a fan of gore or rooting for the bad guy like in Friday the 13th or something like that. I’d like to say I get why people like those movies, but I don’t really try to get it because gore and criminality is not my thing. In fact, I can say that in writing dastardly deeds of bad guys, I find that it’s a very heavy process that takes an emotional toll on me as a writer (I took a nearly one month siesta from writing after one such incident in Dead Mouths).  On that same note, I once walked out of my own living room when friends were over watching Scream. I don’t judge people who like the movies, because, well… I’m into watching shows like Monsters and Mysteries in America, Ancient Aliens, and A Haunting as well as visiting places and festivals associated with these things (yes, I’ve been to the Mothman Festival in West Virginia). It should be noted, though, that I tend to take things with a grain of salt, and enjoy them for the story, the archaeology, and the out of the ordinary element presented in them. It’s another place where education and imagination meet for entertainment.


With many of these shows, whether a movie like Signs (much better than The Sixth Sense, which was also good in my opinion) or cheesy TV horror like My Haunted House, there is a sense of fear that builds up in trying to escape from or fight back against what we don’t understand and can’t explain. There is also a sense of faith, which I feel is essential in all of these shows (whether it’s The Exorcist or Contact), and I like that, too. There’s no good without evil, but goodness can always win, which is definitely a good thing.
That said, when it comes to fear, I also really like Iron Maiden’s “Fear of the Dark,” with lyrics that express “the unknown troubles on your mind, maybe your mind is playing tricks, you sense, and suddenly eyes fix on dancing shadows from behind.”  I think that’s a fair expression of fear, whether it’s acrophobia, claustrophobia, mysophobia, or thanatophobia. If we look at the lists, there’s a fear of everything out there, whether it’s spiders, love, or being out of mobile phone contact, you can find any phobia on Wikipedia.
For those of us who have these fears, which are somewhat the opposite of dreams since they inhibit us from venturing into the “unknown” or “dangerous,” we know they’re “irrational.” We should use mind over matter to defeat them. We know this.
So then why do we still have them?


For myself, I find myself afraid of heights, which really freaks me out on some bridges or steep places like Great Falls of the Passaic in Paterson, New Jersey. That said, there are times I can push myself forward, and there are other times I can’t.
Nevertheless, as a person with Parkinson’s, I feel subjected to a whole new set of fears that I have come to find are truly “rational.” I don’t always “feel” them in a sense where I take them on board and think about them obsessively, but they always exist in my head.
“Where will I be in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?”
“Where will I be next year, for that matter?”
“Can I push through these rusty knees to make them move smoother over longer distances so that I can once again do double digit hikes?”
“Should I be worried about these symptoms I’m being asked if I experience or is this just standard protocol for everyone who gets this condition?”
“How often am I going to have weird symptoms like my upper left arm popping or my sciatica type pains, which are infrequent right now, but…?”
“If they come up with a cure, will my insurance cover it? Will it work for me? Is it too late to make progress forward, or am I always going to be ‘at least this way?’”
“How much will some people’s ethical / religious beliefs impact any chance for the benefits of stem cell research and treatment on people in America?”
“Would I ever be able to have the ways and means to take my chances on Mexican doctor options? Are these the best options for me or is this just wishful thinking?”
“If and when Obamacare gets replaced, will my state choose to get rid of pre-existing conditions coverage?”
“When the next election comes, will the next president undo much of the devastation of this administration’s policies on healthcare?”
“What type of burden will my condition and treatment play on my wife and family, both financially and emotionally?”


“If I’ve had symptoms since age 40 (2011), how fast will things progress now that I’m on Azilect and amantadine?”
“How long will I be able to keep hiking, writing, and being the ‘me’ that I know and am used to?”
“Will I ever get a chance to go and see some of the National Parks and Monuments of our country before I get too rough to hike distances or in the heat / my country removes their protection so that they become spoiled forever and ever?”


“Will someone with power over my future choose to discriminate against me in a way that impacts my future and that of my family?”
I’m sure that everyone reading this feels some impact from all of these questions that I ask now. I’m sure some of you are newer than me to the symptoms (though I’ve only been labeled since November 1st of last year) and you have newer concerns such as when will left hand go to left foot to head to right hand and off to right foot. I’m sure other people have answers to some of these questions to?”
“I know I’m not guaranteed to advance beyond certain stages, but what are the odds of people not advancing?”
“Are all these studies that are finding things really making headway?”
“Is anyone I’m educating and advocating to getting any use out of this?
“When will the movement freezing start?”
“What parts of my real life will be affected by / kiboshed by my medicines?”
“When will I need constant care and who will provide it to me (i.e. boy, I’m glad I didn’t have children for some reasons, but I might have been able to use their assistance)?”
“Does everyone who gets this have to go through Deep Brain Stimulation?”
“Why must so many people who know I have this condition (but who don’t have Parkinson’s) send me that cannabis treatment video? Do they think if it’s legalized medically, they’ll be able to get stoned, too?”
“When am I going to stop addressing myself as, “Hi I’m ____, and I have Parkinson’s. Here are some things you may notice. Please ignore them and love me for me’?”
“Am I required to buy Back to the Future on DVD now?”
I can’t answer many of the other questions except for myself, but I can tell you the answer to that last 1 is: “Only the first one. The others just don’t hold up as well.” To be honest, Michael J. Fox is awesome for all he's done for Parkinson's, whether you are a fan of Family Ties or Spin City or not. 
In the end, there’s really only one question that I can answer:
“Who is this person I’m looking at in the mirror and what happened to the other guy?”
The answer:
“It’s still the same old you, but you have a new normal now:
I am a husband to Heather
            I am a son to John and Essie
            I am a brother to Beth
            I am a nephew to Toot, Dave, Pat, Steve, and Deb
            I am Big D’s godfather
            I am Uncle Dan to over 20 different kids and adults in Pennsylvania and Ohio
            I am a cousin and all other kinds of family related tags
            I am a friend to some really great people who have listened to my story about this and been there in good times and rough days
            I’m a Berks County Boy living in Ephrata, smack dab in the middle of Amish Paradise
            I am a teacher / tutor who works hard to push people to be great while teaching them how to write well, and for this, I’ve seen some really great people I feel awesome about working with
            I am the proud product of a community college, which transformed my life
            I am a writer of ghost stories and outdoor tales
I may write ghost stories, but I believe in God and the power of true love
I went to a Catholic college whose teachers also influenced me
            I am a hiker who is active in hiking groups to include the Standing Stone Trail,which in my humble opinion is the best trail in Pennsylvania
            I am a photographer
            I love music from all genres, especially Polyphonic Spree and Neutral Milk Hotel
            I’m a baseball fan
            I served in the Air Force
            I like chocolate iced donuts, cheese steaks, and pizza more than I should
            I’m heavily influenced by stories of people overcoming hardship.
            I have a weird sense of humor
            I’d like to think I’m a good person, but I’ve done some knuckleheaded things that I wish I could undo, too
            The Stockdale Paradox is my defining code.

       You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

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