Lord of the Condom

Everyone carries maps in their heads. The best route from here to there might be about traversing difficult terrain, by-passing traffic, or navigating emotional shoals.

I can detail the floor plan of each house I lived in growing up. But the emotional map of my childhood homes was always the same. There were common rooms with smells of good food and rooms for privacy, concentration and sleep. Basements were damp and often forbidding.

And there were those boundaries beyond which one dare not pass, like my parent’s room. Their room wasn’t scary. It was just a place I had no business being. Which makes sense. Parents need space to be together without intrusion.

Imagine my surprise then, when my mother gave me a very private gift from my Dad.

I was at the age where my curiosity about girls raged, driven by a flood tide of hormones. This gift was given to me after I digested the book about ‘The Creation of a Life,’ also handed to me by my parents. They said to read it and come to them with any questions I might have. (Yeah, right.)

The book contained many diagrams designed to dampen my instinctive enthusiasm for the wild act of procreation. It was all so theoretical. I knew what I wanted.

But I received this gift before I had the epiphany that the captivating (and sexy!) figures all the girls were developing, actually contained very real persons. Can you say ‘superficial’?

I think I was in the ninth grade.

Mini-skirts were very popular. How can I describe the exquisite daily torture I suffered watching the girl next to me in home room repairing yet another run in her panty-hose, half-way up her thigh? (Anything I can do to help?)

Trust me when I say my interests ran to the purely physical. Of course, emotions were important too. My emotions!

It was a crazy time.

One day, after school, Mom handed me a rolled-up pair of socks and said, “Dad doesn’t need these anymore. He said to give them to you.” Huh? Socks? What was that about?

Putting them away, something crinkled and inside one sock I discovered a condom, still wrapped in its clear plastic wrapping! Hot damn! Now I had some questions.

Did Mom know what she was giving me? Was I supposed to use it? Or, if not, what was the point? Did I receive it accidentally? Was it left over from one of Dad’s business trips and she didn’t know about it? Or had Mom discovered it and was sending a message to Dad?  If I asked Mom, was I busting Dad? If I asked Dad, would he answer me honestly? How would I know? If it was safe to ask questions, why the secrecy? Was this the same mother who disapproved of her child watching Betty Boop cartoons because Betty was too provocative? I was perplexed and had no one to talk to.

With great power comes great responsibility.

Huzzah! What an opportunity! I couldn’t wait to use it. I felt free! I was ready. Knowing it was secure in my wallet, I didn’t walk, I swaggered. I saw things differently. People saw me differently. That little plastic package was going to make me a man!

Now I just needed a girlfriend!

Of course, my friends gave me plenty of advice. They assured me they could use it better than me.  Their envy was palpable. I wanted very badly to share it, but not with them.

I knew the theoretical mechanics of the situation but there were too many missing elements for successful implementation; mainly a willing female. This appeared to be an insurmountable problem. It was excruciating, but I had to come to terms with the fact that, though granted great power, I lacked opportunity, or the sophistication to recognize it should it knock.

How to broach the subject with a likely young lady? I was clueless! Finesse? You must be joking.

My condom was going to waste. It was a tragedy!

Eventually I realized, if desperate, I could find some girl with whom to use my precious condom. But then what of the ensuing complications? Would she want attention? Dates? Affection? If expected to invest all that time and trouble, I wanted to be with someone I actually liked and wanted to be seen with. This was getting complicated.

This great power I possessed began to possess me.

Finally, the precious condom became an absurd reminder of my inexperience. Reality called me out from the dark corners of my imagination. I hid it in my sock drawer. Family tradition.

****

A few years ago, I visited my parents in Florida. I had kids of my own. We were all adults. Decades had passed. While recalling old times I thought to ask them. It was so long ago. I could finally put the mystery to rest. It would be a funny story to share.

I got blank stares. No one knew anything. Nope. Nothing. Wasn’t me. Move along, nothing to see.

I couldn’t believe it.

There are some boundaries that one simply cannot cross.

Eclipsed by a Fidget Spinner

by John K. Adams

There is nothing more charming than seeing children, faces all aglow, quietly joined in the group activity of staring at their respective smart phones. Not a word passes among them while their thumbs furiously tap the keyboards.

I don’t have a ‘smart phone’ because I don’t like taking orders from an inanimate object that is smarter than me. A Harry Potter character had to contend with the question of ‘talking to something that doesn’t have a brain’ and I think it didn’t end well. Having too many distractions in my life, I need to make an appointment just to have time to fidget.

Sports events are the perfect time suck. Sports are usually described as a proxy for warfare. While that may be true for the participants, sports serve a greater need by allowing observer to forget his immediate circumstances while projecting his desires toward the outcome of a grander spectacle. And that is alright. People need downtime to unwind.

To maintain interest, the game is chock full of little nuggets of set-up, tension, release. A single game might have hundreds of these; maybe several in a minute. Wash, rinse, repeat. These triads of tension are perfect for distracting one from anything important. And the cumulating results take on a sense of importance in the mind, far beyond any actual tangible result. You don’t think those rooting for a team feel empowered by a win? Tell that to those burning cars outside the stadium.

Set-up, tension, release. That is the basic structure of any roller-coaster ride, drama or the intertwining events of our complicated lives. One writer I know told me he structures every scene he writes, regardless of the content, as if it was a sex scene with set-up, tension and release.

Is there a correlation in our world to falling viewership of sports events and falling birthrates to the advent of the new device known as the fidget spinner? Please tell me I am joking.

Never in history have so many had so much free time. To what purpose are we biding all this time? Is this what Jefferson meant when he wrote “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Fidget Spinners”?

To an extra-terrestrial visitor it would appear we were at the height of our civilization… ripe for decline. Perhaps alarmingly, so much of this restless energy is astoundingly self-focused. What will that army of the idle do when fidget spinners no longer distract them?

You may not have noticed but the United States recently experienced a total eclipse of the sun. Thousands of people traveled hundreds of miles to witness this confluence of apparently random events to generate a massive cosmic coincidence.

It was a remarkable spectacle. By that, I mean the hype, not the eclipse.

Various groups projected meaning onto this event and have claimed it as their own. New-agers divined a manner to interpret the eclipse using personal numbers to determine your cosmic identity. I am told I am a “Ruler of the Divine.” Uh-huh.

Some Christians saw the eclipse as a sign of the pending apocalypse. Social Justice Warriors (SJW) called the eclipse ‘racist’ because it was seen by white people. ‘Scientists’ cited it as evidence of global climate change. I witnessed verbal attacks by ‘true believers’ on those expressing disinterest in the eclipse.

Taking a step back from the cosmos (just for a second), the eclipse is really just the syncing of the moon’s revolving around the earth with its passage between the earth and the sun. The earth’s rotation creates the illusion that the sun and moon are moving against each other. It is mechanical and predictable. It happens all the time. Synchronicity depends on us to project meaning onto a phenomenon. Climate change and my personal numerical identity have nothing to do with it.

How great is our need for distraction that thousands will travel hundreds or thousands of miles for an event that takes less than a minute to observe? (Honestly, Stanley Kubrick did it better in “2001, A Space Odyssey” and with music!)

With all this spinning and revolving on such a grand scale, one is reminded of how cycles and circles play a huge part in our lives. Didn’t someone at Disney say something about ‘the great  circle of life’?

Looked at in that sense, our whole solar system and by extension, the universe, is just an elaborate (and profoundly complex) fidget spinner. In that light, we who are made in the image of the Ruler of our universe can be amused by that thought. The question must be asked though, what happens when the Spinner of the cosmic fidget spinner stops being amused?

 

 

You Kiss with that Mouth?

Dentists don’t have an easy job. I can’t imagine entering a career where my clients fear or resent me. Then there is the job itself. How many hours per day do you want to poke and scrape at people’s teeth while their tongues wag at you?

I always thought I took pretty good care of my teeth. However, my long history of braces, root canals, crowns etc. is pretty bad. My mother in law would say, “If you aren’t feeling well, you need a new toothbrush. You have a new toothbrush? You should have kept the old one.”

The typical healthy adult human mouth has roughly 32 teeth in it, minus the wisdom teeth, which generally get removed so as to avoid your mouth looking like a multi-car pile up on a foggy highway. If you had braces your dentist probably removed one or two to give him (or herself) more elbow room.

I lost count of the number of root canals I’ve had in my life. But counting redos I suspect I am approaching the maximum legal limit. (Yes, Grasshopper, there are ‘redos’ in the world of root canals. One would think once was enough. This isn’t golf after all.) Suffice to say I’ve had so many x-rays, when I turn out the lights, my head glows like Reddy Kilowatt.

I have so much metal in my mouth it is a wonder I can get through airport security. As a result, one environmental group is suing to declare my mouth a toxic waste dump. A mining company is working to stake a claim for extraction rights (which I’m not quite ready to surrender. Make me an offer.) And a third entity wants to bestow national park status on my mouth as a natural wonder.

Due to numerous moves around the country, the list of my former dentists now exceeds the number of laborers who worked on Mount Rushmore. That number will soon increase and there is a waiting list. I should start charging a toll.

I am tempted to compare my experience with dentists to that of the unfortunate character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie “Marathon Man” but that would be unfair to but a few. I have known many fine dentists and cannot subscribe to the idea that they are sadists in lab coats. Many relieved me of considerable pain. I suspect several are frustrated sculptors yearning to work on a grander scale.

One however, seemed more concerned with securing the next payment for his Bentley than for enhancing my gleaming smile. He always greeted me by urgently lobbying to replace a perfectly good bridge. But getting him to attend to the immediate pain in my jaw was like pulling teeth. After another worked on me, I awoke feeling like he’d used a wrecking ball and a chisel on my jaw. No jackhammers though.

I once had a dental hygienist who insisted on singing along with the Muzak featuring a Barry Manilow song as she probed my molars and I gazed up her nostrils. How romantic! Had I known the words we could have had quite the duet.

One dentist was hilarious (just what you want in a dentist). After trussing me up with a multitude of metal appliances and ensuring I couldn’t move, close my mouth or respond with more than a gurgle, he performed a stand-up routine of funny jokes. Talk about timing. I felt like Malcolm MacDowell in “A Clockwork Orange” only instead of Beethoven’s Ninth, I was subjected to his version of Henny Youngman one liners.

Once, after getting a gold crown glued on, I fixed myself lunch and inadvertently swallowed the crown when it unexpectedly came loose. I spent the next week literally panning for gold. Losing that would definitely have been a high stakes royal flush.

Years later, I needed to replace the gold crown (yes, that gold crown). That dentist protested when I wanted to keep the scrapped gold for myself. After all, I paid dearly for it, in many ways.

Excuse me. I need to go buy a new tooth brush.