Last Night In My Neighborhood Around Midnight Baltimore

Earlier, friends had texted me, concerned about my safety. But when I responded casually that everything was just fine where I was at, they breathed better.
I just went about my usual business of getting lost on my way to my doctor’s appointment and ending up in Bay View (or something like that) of the Hopkins Physicians campus when in fact I should have reached my destination in 5 minutes instead of 30 – that’s when I began to suspect something was wrong.
Quick calls to the doctor’s office, explaining what had happened, they rescheduled my appointment in 45 minutes, and said, that should be enough time for me to get there.
The doctor was a woman slightly older than myself and with a stern appearance. We didn’t mention my confused state of mind and went straight to my lungs.
“It hurts when I breathe,” I told her.
“Are you a smoker?”
“Of course, I am!”
That’s when she seemed to soften, and we got along really well after that.
“And when are you gonna come back?” She said.
“Um. If I don’t feel better in a week.”
“Good,” she said.
“And, you’re gonna call when?”
“As soon as I feel worse (if)”
“Very good.”
And she sent me off to the next stop on my destination, the Pharmacy, which should have my prescriptions ready by the time I got there, since they were faxed during my office visit.
That didn’t happen.
We had Lothario working that day and what I later learned was a new pharmacist.
It was her first day.
Lothario is the most annoying Pharmacy Tech ever. It takes him 50 words to say what he could’ve of said in 2. He loves the limelight.
Every time I have to deal with him, the only thing I wanna tell him is: Shut the fuck up! Just get my fucking prescription.
And now he’s grown a beard. And he actually looks quite handsome. He has very fair skin and a pink tone to his face, and his hair could be a shade attributed to an ancient deity, like Apollo, so he does have some charm.
And he’s got blue eyes.
(Need I say more?)
But he is the most annoying fuck in the world!
2 people is pretty low staffing anyway. But to subject a new pharmacist to a theatrical performer on her first day of the job is plain cruel.
At one point, standing behind the Conductor’s stand, but elevated, and next to the sweet but sheepish pharmacist, he addressed the audience, in his sweet Baritone Tenor:

I want to let everyone know we have everything under control. We’re on top of it. We’re checking you off, as I speak …

(While the pharmacist stared dumbly ahead. And the 20 or so people either waiting to get their prescriptions filled for the past hour or those to check-in with their prescriptions so they could get them filled.)
After an hour and forty-five, I began to lose my patience.
I said to him:
“It’s been more than 15 minutes, you know -”
And he invoked the Doctrine of Uncertainty.
“Things change,” he said.
“We cannot predict that.
Things have changed,” he said.
“No kidding!” I said.
There were 4 chairs against the wall, all of them filled. And a cluster of people idling around the “Drop-off” Counter. And then those standing around those who were sitting, waiting for a chair to vacate.
By this point, the Pharmacist was completely dazed. They said my prescription was ready. And when I checked it, I said: “Where’s the expectorant?” And she said to me: “That one. That one is the expectorant.” And I said to her: “No it isn’t. That’s an inhaler. There should be three prescriptions filled, but you have only filled two. Where is the other one?”
Well, they could only check that information on the “Drop-off” computer, not the cash register one. And Lothario was standing there and he would have to do it, and I said:
Are you kidding? The only thing he likes to do is talk

And then she said to me once they had tracked the problem (“The prescription had been put on hold.” she said. “Why?” She didn’t know why.) that Lothario would mix the formula. And I said:
What? You’re gonna let him mix the formula?”
At that point, I said.
“I really need to get out of here. Just give me what’s ready.”
When I finally made it home three blocks away I settled at my perch in the middle of 3 windows facing 25th Street my picture window and began to observe the street – my street – the one that had brought me pleasure and satisfaction and an opportunity to think – that’s when I read the text from George. He expressed concern. And I said everything was quiet up here. No problem. And that made him feel better.
But as I began to settle in for the night, I noticed traffic patterns had shifted. 25th Street was quieter than usual. 25th was a street that attracted traffic 24 hours. And here it was, 8pm, and it was quiet. Plus, another odd occurrence was that 25th street was the route to Union General by the Hopkins Charles Village campus. The usual pattern is ambulances go down 25th to pick up emergency patients and come up back 25th to get them to Union Memorial.
But tonight there were no ambulances going down 25th. Instead there were emergency vehicles going in both directions. Some were doubled up. One Police SUV sped by with another one right behind it. Same with fire trucks. Speeding in opposite directions.
I hadn’t followed what had happened that day since I don’t have a television. So at that point I began to assemble the information I had in some coherent fashion.
3:07 PM TUESDAY, April 28, 2015
The first ambulance just rolled through on its way to Union Memorial.
It has begun.
Is it gonna be a long night?
Hard to say.
The city is under military control now. The Humvees will –
Second alarm.
Very close to first.
People are staying off of the streets –
For the most part. And traffic is brisk. Busy people rush to meet the 10 PM curfew.

I sat on the bed and looked at the text. Everything is fine here. Quiet.
11:00 PM
At first it sounded like some sort of traffic jam up the street. Like someone was sitting on their horn in traffic. At least that’s what it sounded like from my window. I couldn’t see that far up 25th.
After 20 minutes I decided it was time to call 911. I dialed and I got a busy signal. Fuck! (Noodles!) I dialed again. Got through to a recording imploring people not to hang up. I got through. All I could do was explain what I was experiencing and give my location.
I went downstairs to see if my initial impression was correct.
I was totally wrong.
25th was eerily quiet. Nothing. I told this to the dispatcher. I apologized for not being more helpful. She said it was okay. If I heard it, the police would hear it too. That helped.
I went upstairs and for some reason went to the kitchen. We have a small window that faces the cross street here. I looked out the window and saw a fire. A car? Probably. I ran outside and to the car. A car had in fact been set on fire and was blazing. People were standing around chattering.
Did anybody call 911? I asked.
Nobody had a phone to put a call through to 911. That’ll tell you something about the level of poverty here.
The second attempt to call 911 while I was running down the steps resulted in another busy signal.
Fuck, (Noodles) I said.
And I hung up.
This time I could not afford to hang up. I had to get through. Services were needed.
Yes. It’s a car, I shouted into the phone. It’s burning. It’s in flames. Everywhere, I told the dispatcher.
In the meantime, fire trucks were rushing up and down 25th obviously on their way to another urgent report of fire in the city. Police cars too.
After we had waited for about 5 minutes, we saw a fire truck making a right onto 25th street, and we thought that was our truck, and we tried to wave it down but that too sped by. Finally the helicopter appeared, and helped pinpoint the location. Cops and fire fighters were at the scene putting the fire out.
Then it was over.
Except someone would discover that their car had been burned for no reason at all.
(Two more sections to add here.)





The Arithmetic of Dreams: Add It Up

I have often wondered how the subconscious influences our consciousness. And a question in search of an answer is: What is the Subconscious? We can speculate endlessly about its connection to Consciousness, but it is somewhat difficult to actually go there and form a mathematical equation, for example, of its properties. We just know it’s there. And dreams are often how we access it. Or, as in my case, in one example, the last image I produced before slipping into unconsciousness, 2 watercolor paintings I would not live to reproduce, while hovering between the two. And yet, there is a pattern that often comes through dreams that informs us what is of importance to us, at any given time, as long as our memory does not fail us once we awaken.

It’s an ideal way to address conflicts – if only you can have your therapist, for example, travel with you there. Roles often change. Projection is rampant. And so is substitution – essentially whatever is necessary to put the pieces of the puzzle into some coherent pattern.

I remember when I did observation while in my singular semester in graduate school at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, a campus that housed the most promising minds in these areas, tucked in a bucolic setting outside of Chicago. What an exciting experience! Curiosity at its peak. Adolescents! And Creativity. For Science also involves heavy doses of Creativity. That’s when breakthroughs occur.

Immediately I thought that the principles applied at IMSA could be applied at any school, since children and adolescents are naturally curious, observant and creative. But instead they are bogged down by futile attempts to measure and gauge intelligence through inferior testing principles – for what reason? For funding? Unacceptable. Shame on any system that holds this as the ideal!

The challenge is to teach children how to think – for themselves – and not demand they parrot irrelevant information for the comfort of sustaining social conformity.

One of the reasons, I failed graduate school was an assignment that asked us to produce our personal philosophy of Education. Mine was rejected. And as the graduate student next to me said when I told him this was: “How can you fail one when the assignment explicitly states to provide your personal philosophy of education?”

I hadn’t thought about that, until he mentioned it, but he was right. It’s an exploratory assignment, and properly outside any grading system. If anything, the response – or the grade – is a neutral one. It was at that point that I realized this program was not about teaching but about screening people for the profession. The professor ultimately admitted that when I confronted him on the last day of the semester. He had rejected my essay on Education and told me to rewrite it. And my refusal to comply was based on the premise that the only way I would be able to rewrite my personal philosophy of Education was when – and if – it changed. And it hadn’t changed. Thus I could not and would not comply with his demand. Because of that he gave me a “C” as my final grade. He had succeeded. He was victorious. I had been flushed from the system.

Back to IMSA.

At the time, I had a cousin who was (and is) a mathematical genius. He studied in France and has been on the staff at the Aegean University on the island of Samos. He discovered this concept called “Nest Algebra.” I looked into it, and I can’t say I understand it, but it has been highly influential among University mathematicians world-wide, including the U.S., especially at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois.

At IMSA, I approached one of the mathematics staff and I simply asked him if he had ever heard of Nest Algebra. He hadn’t. And then, I decided to ask him a question that had been puzzling me ever since I was watching my older son playing with Legos (a staple in our house). Ted would build elaborate constructions with Legos, cities, they were. And one day, the following popped into my mind. When you take two discreet units and merge them into a single unit, you now have one, so we assume that 1 + 1 = 2. But maybe 1 + 1 = 1? That was the question I put to this teacher. But instead of explaining how I had arrived at this conclusion, I posed it differently to him, essentially as an equation. “Why doesn’t 1 + 1 = 1?” And his response was: “That’s an irrelevant question.” And my response to that was: “I thought all questions were relevant.” And that was the end of our conversation, since he did not respond to my final question, but instead, walked away from me.

Below is a picture snapped of me snapped during twilight at the Athens airport. Unfortunately I don’t have the original picture, but did have it Facebook – Big Brother – and could only copy the link.

Hopefully it works.
But wait …
I outwitted Big Brother!

My ex-husband at the time recalls seeing what appeared as lightning, startling him, as he took the picture. It wasn’t until we looked at the photograph that we saw what we saw.

The most common and revealing explanation was: You were smoking a cigarette. It’s cigarette smoke.

I’ll just leave it at that.
No comment.

But it was an astrophysicist – a PhD student in Athens – who saw it differently. He was curious about the time the photo was taken (4:30 AM) and suggested this was very likely a form of energy usually undetected by the naked eye. Electricity, perhaps. (He also ruled out cigarette smoke.) Now that is interesting.

My mother died when I was 16. I am now 61. She still inhabits my dreams. It took me years to reconcile the finality of Death and it was through her guidance and demonstrations (after several failed attempts) to reach my level of receptivity and understanding. It was Mother Goose to the rescue. Humpty Dumpty, specifically.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men, couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

I was like, wow, I get it.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein hadn’t worked. We had attempted (through dreams) several re-writes of that, but to no success.

Oftentimes, she just appears with strange messages. Once, she had hooked me up with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, when both were dead. They had reached some agreement that she would now serve as my literary agent. Oooookay, I said. Not gonna attempt to argue with that one. Dead women managing my literary career.

And then, last night, there she was again! This time with Oprah. I am neither a fan or follower of Oprah. But there she was. She had come to view my Art. She was in sweats and far from the elegant person portrayed in film, television and magazines.

And I’m going …
“What brought you here?
Why are you here?”

And she said:
“I wanna see your Art.”

And I said:
“But it’s locked up. It’s in storage and surrounded by a chain link fence.”

And she said:
“Show me.”

And I said:
“Yeah, but why are you here? What brought you here?”

And she said:
“I got a letter about you.
From your mother.
Five years ago.”

“Ohhhhh,” I said.


Commenting on Comments

Probably one of my most concise, rapid and brief responses to another commenter on The Guardian website regarding the hunger strike of a Greek activist (I’m not judging right and wrong here, mind you.)

It just fell from my lips.

To those who try to isolate the intellectuals of Exarchia as some sort of deviant group in Greek society that does nothing more than hang-out at cafes is absurd. ALL Greeks love cafes. It’s a staple of Greek society. And if it bothers you that they are political activists, come visit the U.S. and see their (educated) peers who labor at low-wage jobs to barely survive and are the equivalent of political zombies (for now) and tell me the youth should just shut-up and put-up with the crap of the establishment. That’s what makes them special. They think.

19 Year Old Rattles America and News Junkies

I’m sure everyone wants to know what was/is going on in his head.  What made it possible for him to become a terrorist at such an early age?  If I were the FBI, I’d be going through their computers and apartment right now.  How did they live?  Were there any clues visible?  What about that remark the younger one made to his friends about terrorism not being a big deal.  It wasn’t in his country.  Terrorism was common there.  So what did he mean by that statement?

I hope they catch him alive.  Really important to find what makes him tick.  The uncertain thing is how dangerous is he right now?  How do they get him alive?  Suicide seems to be a way out in these situations.  Remember the ex-cop of LAPD?  That’s what he chose in the end.  Would have been fascinating to have caught him alive.  Imagine the contribution these people make to our understanding of the brain…

What’s really amazing is how quickly the FBI worked to find him.  The thousands and thousands of visual images they had to put together.  Never underestimate the intelligence of adolescents, however.  Even now as I hear experts trying to explain this guy, they really don’t have a clue as to what makes him tick.  The FBI, I think, wants him alive.  Besides he’s only 19 years old.  And he has such a sympathetic face.  Looks so sweet. How can one kill him? I don’t want them killing him.  They need him alive.

Then again, it seems to be the perfect age to recruit a terrorist.  So maybe Muslim radicals promoted these type of acts as deserved.  After all, look at what America has done?  Sticks its nose everywhere.  But there is nothing normal about witnessing acts of terror in the country you live.  As a child.  That is NOT normal.  That is bound to have an affect on you.  So maybe even though they seemed acculturated they were in fact traumatized by the terrorism they witnessed as children.

They may have seemed normal.  But they were not by any stretch of imagination normal.  They are far from normal.  They just look normal.