When you lose your mother but you inherit a headache. My thoughts on grief and “things” in a flash essay appears in Variety Pack, Issue 1: http://www.Varietypack.net
Before my mother died from a long cancer struggle she had many infirm months to reckon the future of family heirlooms. My husband and I traveled across the country to Colorado for the last goodbye, and after Mom’s memorial we had to solve getting our assigned heirlooms home to Rhode Island…. https://varietypack.net/issue-i/
Thai Phoon, Mai Thai, Thai Tanic–All names of real Thai restaurants. Small town, big town, every town has a Thai place that is open late night and Christmas Day with a corny name on the sign. Recently I had occasion to be in the metropolis of Mattydale, New York (population 315). It was late on a Sunday night and I experienced an adequate meal at the fabulously named Thai Love New York. The place gave me an idea. If you are about to go into the Thai restaurant business, I want to encourage you to focus your energies on a delicious menu. I’ve already helped by coming up with a list of cutesy restaurant names you are free to select from:
Awareness of gender identity has become so heightened, even drag shows have begun to look normative. But what if They wants to lipps inc “Born This Way” at Bushwig and still be recognized as third gender? Here are some stage name suggestions for such great bold performers:
I admit it, when I was little boy I went through a phase of trying on my mother’s jewelry and makeup. My mother, despite having a full supply of natural brunette hair, even had a brunette wig for me to play with (Was my mother secretly a Saturday night diva?). Though I never stopped using artificial beauty to lure a man, eventually I did put the high-heeled shoes back on their trees and the wig back on its foam bust. There is a little part of me that still fantasizes what it would be like to live beyond gender in la cage aux folles, and here are some drag queen identities I might never dare to adopt:
Today, August 26th, I am celebrating my mother’s 80th birthday. Marilyn Schopfer Brown died about a month ago. She wanted to live long enough to see eighty and to see the Downtown Abbey movie. She didn’t make it to either, but she’s with me in every idea I write, every moral decision I make, and everything I goof up too.
I always wondered who writes the obituary when someone in the family dies. Among my brothers and sisters, the job fell to me. But first I’m also posting the text of the remembrance I gave at my mother’s memorial service. I’m really proud of it, and I hope I captured her view of the world.
Last winter I called my mother on a Saturday morning, she was busy listening to the soundtrack of Johnny Appleseed, that’s a Disney musical movie from 1948. She was alone, tethered to a walker and an oxygen machine, dying of cancer, and she was having a great life. Johnny Appleseed is the story of a 19th Century apple farmer who is sent on a mission by an angel to travel across America planting apple seeds and preaching the Gospel. He wears a tin-pot hat, befriends a skunk, and sings a ceaselessly optimistic song proclaiming: The Lord’s been good to me. There was a lot of Johnny Appleseed in my mother. She believed in a benevolent and nondenominational God, she loved unlovable animals, and would likely have sung showtunes with a tin-pot on her head if someone had asked her too. But I’d like to make another point about Marilyn’s Appleseedian optimism. It isn’t hard, even for cynics like me, to grasp that some unique people wake up everyday with an optimistic outlook on life and see the positivity they project fulfilled. In her life, my mother came west and planted seeds of optimism among her family and grandchildren, her friends, her co-workers, her students, her church congregations, her clubs–elevating every flagging person and feral cat she met, everywhere she went. I get it–life is grand if you make it that way. What I struggled with on the telephone that Saturday morning was understanding my mother’s ability to translate her harmonious optimism into a joyful noise about dying. My mother told me that her terminal illness was a gift, not because she wanted to die, but because death comes to all and in knowing the end she saw an opportunity a lot of people don’t get. She was glad to have the time to reflect on the happy things about her life, past and present. Besides, my mother was 99% sure that God was waiting for her on the other side. And if she was wrong all this time, she was prepared to pass into oblivion grateful for a life that gave all the things she needed, and that her apple trees would still be there. I still don’t get it, but I like it. I admire it. And today my mother inspires me. In the last scene of Johnny Appleseed, after years of walking barefoot over hundreds of miles while planting seeds all along the way, Johnny rests under an apple tree. His angel appears and says that Johnny’s mission on Earth is at its end. At first Johnny doesn’t want to go to the resting place, believing that the work isn’t done yet. The angel tells Johnny that where they’re headed is low on apple trees and that there’s still a lot of work to do. So Johnny picks up his apple seed bag, his Bible, puts the tin-pot on his head and happily goes. May we all go as optimistically as my mother in the sun and rain of life, and in the looming shadow of death, without complaints, or resentment, or fear, as happy as we’re willing to be.
Marilyn (Schopfer) BrownBrown MARILYN (SCHOPFER) BROWN 08/26/1939 – 07/21/2019 Marilyn Schopfer Brown died peacefully, after a long illness, in the company of her children and grandchildren in Grand Junction, Colorado on July 21st, 2019. Born August 26th, 1939 in Syracuse New York, her parents were Irving F Schopfer and Marion Schopfer Cabrey. A graduate of North Syracuse High School and SUNY Oneonta, in her professional life she was a teacher of home economics, and worked for the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado for over twenty years before becoming a freelance trainer for the city. In 2000, she retired to life in Tempe, Arizona and Grand Junction, Colorado. In her personal life, Marilyn loved babies and being a mother. She was proud of being the “best grandma ever”-her grandchildren told her so. Blessed with many loyal, caring, and fun-loving friends, she returned those qualities to the world around her in many ways. Marilyn is survived by her siblings Suzanne and Thomas (Carol deceased); her children and their spouses Steven, JoAnn, Christopher and Rachel, Richard and Colin; her grandchildren Christopher, Brennan, Briony, and Braewyn, and by her four feral cats. Marilyn requested no flowers, but asked memorial contributions be made to Campus Ministries at University Lutheran Church of Tempe, Arizona and “She Has A Name” at Heart of Junction Church, Grand Junction, Colorado. A memorial service will be held Saturday, July 27, 11a.m., at Heart of Junction Church, 755 N 4th St., Grand Junction, Colorado, 81501.
Semi-professional musicians, if you’ve recently split from the Thursday-Sunday band you formed with some guys from the office, I’m here to get you started again. You might think the old dudes never found your “sound” but my guess is you never had the right name.
Do you believe everything you hear? Joss was a troubled teenager before ever telling his psychiatrist that his bicycle collision with a random car door was “meant to be.” He is the child of upper-middle class professionals who attends a private high school in multidimensional Cambridge, Massachusetts, but he also grew up angry and defiant, and he just got out of two years lock-up in juvie for setting the neighbor’s house on fire. His meeker younger brother killed himself; a tragedy over which the father has fallen into dissociation and the mother has become an irreconcilable bitch who holds Joss responsible. Yet, in the hospital, recovering from the concussion he suffered, Joss feels euphoric, spiritually renewed and he has begun to hear the OM.
The OM is the primordial vibration of the universe. It sounds like a cosmic choir chanting and could anciently be heard by all humans, before the mythical fall of creation. To this point Michael Sussman’s novel Crashing Eden is still a fairly phenomenological YA drama. We are not sure yet if this is a journey into myth and the supernatural, or the story of a depressed kid having a psychotic break.
The psychiatrists seem to have a clinical grasp of what’s wrong (or too right) with Joss. They explain that the OM is an auditory hallucination brought on by Joss’s state of manic bliss. Euphoria and delusions of grandiosity are common to mental patients Joss’s age. Joss’s belief that he has developed special powers, coinciding with the anniversary of his brother’s suicide, is likely a function of Joss’s mind protecting itself from sadness and guilt. Is Joss’s life changing experience of the OM going to be real within the context of the novel, or a maddness through which Joss will exercise his grief? The author will make a choice for the reader about what kind of novel this is going to be – a story about mental illness and family discord, or a sci-fi, superpowers fantasy that will suspend all physical rules to deliver readers beyond the universe to the feet of God. Because Joss believes that something universally significant is happening, and his conviction is about to be substantiated by a series of stupefying narrative events:
Event: Earth is hurtling toward intersection with a vast black hole in outer space, portending the end of the world.
Event: Joss encounters a pair of grad school scientists who have built a wearable device that amplifies the OM. They also enlist Joss in distributing the devices to young people everywhere, in the hope of saving the world by re-syncing it with the primordial vibration of the universe.
Event: the human mission to restore honestly and goodness to the world angers God Himself, who irrationally rains down catastrophic blizzards, earthquakes, and plagues.
Final Event: Joss teams up with the grad students, the ghost of his dead brother, and other friends who have developed supernatural abilities. Joss and company fly as spirit bodies through the black hole to confront God and talk-therapy Him through his attachment disorder related to his own mother abandoning him thirteen billion years before.
Anyone who took a high school English class is probably familiar with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s concept of poetic faith, described as the willing suspension of disbelief. This refers to a reader’s willingness to accept a fictional imagining of the world (or world’s) on the author’s terms. Crashing Eden raises a question about the point at which fantasticism in speculative fiction breaks the readers willing suspension of disbelief. Sci-fi and fantasy stories freight a lot willingness before the cover page is ever turned, and, of course, suspension depends entirely on the individual reader’s cooperation.
There are a couple common ways the fantasy in a genre story gets broken. 1.) The RULES of the Impossible World are implausible in the real world, e.g. the wizard about to cast his death curse conveniently has a heart attack and dies. 2.) The RULES of the Impossible World are inconsistent, e.g. only a wizard can do magic until a non-wizard steals the magic wand. Despite other weaknesses, Crashing Eden actually passes both of these tests. After the on the level looking early chapters, Sussman wends a fairytale path, but there are no early conceits, no limits on the contrived reality that prevent the story from traveling beyond the beyond. So why does Cashing Eden not entirely work? In the druthers of your humble reviewer, its gradually elaborate fantasy simply gets too far out.
If the issue is not broken disbelief, perhaps we could call it cognitive estrangement from the breadth of Sussman’s fantasy world. We can still give up on a story if at some intangible juncture its fantasy proposal feels pointless. Too fantastic. Too weird. There are no doubt other readers for whom legends given authenticity, superpowers employed to punch-out God, and the undisputed existence of God at all, is an exhilarating reading experience. And Sussman deserves credit for giving young readers a positive parable about redemption, healthy self-forgiveness, and celebrating ethics of peace while never ennobling a particular religion. The book is also slyly funny and the teen hero is complex. To my taste, I would have liked the novel to continue in the direction of teen-with-a-mental-problem, and the fantastic parts to be something Joss subconsciously invented as a recovery tool. A little more science and not so much fiction, please. In words attributed to sci-fi author Damon Knight: “Alice In Wonderland, good. Weird Alice In Wonderland, good. Weird Alice In Weird Wonderland, not good.”