The Crickets

It’s early morning

Still dark and quiet 

And Baltimore is sleeping

Even the birds. 

 

But the song of the crickets

Amongst this silence

Is constant

And this is the music

Of early morning. 

 

A constant drip

Of water nearby

Punctuates

The only song you hear.

 

But not long after that

The sirens begin to hum

And this song will continue

Long after the song of the crickets

Is buried.  

The Zombie Apocalypse

In the last 24 hours, everything about the world, as we know it, has abruptly changed, stripped of meaning. We are now facing a threat unlike any other. We must exercise radical self-acceptance and cope the best we can, while knowing our chances for survival grow more perilous as each hour passes. Our species is at war with a rapidly mutating virus and this virus manifests itself by becoming a parasite that feeds on the living, until they dwell in complete darkness, void of meaning. 

These mutants are indefatigable opponents, and our entire species is at imminent risk for annihilation. Our chances for survival without a vaccine to make us resistant to the rapidly spreading and evolving mutation are almost impossible, nil. 

The mutants have appeared suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, over a matter of hours, and Chaos and disorder rapidly spreads. Humans are scrambling to survive and seek the nearest refuge where their safety (for now) may be guaranteed during the rapidly evolving virus of this outbreak. But the mutants are gaining momentum and our species is at a critical juncture. This may be (most likely) the end of the world as we know it. 

Institutions (corporations, etc.) have been preparing for such a crises for years and rapidly secure the perimeter of their interests and their survival. This places enormous pressure and strain on those who seek to survive and whose chances of doing so, diminish minute by minute. But some get lucky (or at least they think they are) for they have been gifted with an opportunity to seek shelter and protection (for now) at the gates of one of the top medical and research institutions, which is based in Baltimore. In addition, this world-famous facility dabbles in real estate, and has agents who amass real estate to ensure that their stability is never threatened. 

Ground zero for this outbreak, luckily, is Baltimore. The source of this mutation sits and watches television and eats junk food and drinks Diet Coke most of the day and is less than an hour away from Baltimore. Occasionally, he’ll call his buddy and say: “Are we still good?” And his buddy never fails to put him at ease. This helps him maintain clarity and focus, knowing he has the full approval of his buddy. 

His intelligence comes directly from a foxy station, which he watches religiously, and this places him in an induced trance. Between the junk food and the Diet Coke, and while in this stupor, his level of genius increases exponentially. He processes and calculates complex information, equations, inaccessible to all others. 

He is a solitary and isolated figure who must remain so, so that his brain may be completely free of any trace of debris that may tamper with the building blocs of the complex equation of the virus, the calculations, the exact formula, to ensure it is iron-clad, impermeable, and will be  released into the atmosphere. By the end of the day, his lower face is stained orange. He has been gorging himself with enormous quantities of Cheetos. This, however, is the stage where he is fully inspired. 

Few scientists will argue that the scientific brain, above all, uses logic for problem-solving. Most will agree intuition provides flashes of insight, the missing pieces of the puzzle, which hold the key to everything. Eureka! That’s it! But even they are no match for this extraordinarily rare form of genius. He is almost unmatchable. 

The toxins for this virus are slowly released by this single most powerful man in the world. And though many may argue this man’s leadership skills are compromised, he is nonetheless unmatchable, and no one can argue that this man’s source of power is ultimately released from his tiny hands and extraordinarily nimble fingers. 

This has top nuclear physicists flummoxed : “What is the source of this man’s ability to release these deadly toxins, the building blocs of this virus, in less than one minute, and, in less than 120 characters, throughout the entire world? And, on the most secure network? Even more secure than the NSA? And, ensure the purity and integrity of its molecules and their meteoric speed are intact?”  

The nuclear physicists at Argonne Laboratory in Chicago are scratching their heads. They have worked round the clock for almost a century, to determine the speed and effectiveness of atomic particles as they race through the labyrinths of their subterranean tunnels below the city of Chicago. 

“Y’a mean this particle reaches Tibetan monks faster than ours does?”

Ahem.  

“Houston, we have a problem.”

But what those who are tirelessly working on a vaccine and who are looking for that needle in the haystack don’t realise is, the formula which will ensure the survival of our species is just a click away. 

This is the one and absolute antidote to the virus. Not surprisingly, although it’s foundation may interest mathematicians, it is easily accessible to all and is as brilliant as pure gold. 

There, there is but one artist (not surprisingly) in the world whose brilliance was and will be eternally unsurpassed. None before or after her will ever reach the heights and depths she reached, which have transfixed listeners for decades through her passion and beauty, and brought them to a place they had never been before. 

She, alone, drank from the sacred springs of Beauty and emerged a giant among peers. She, alone, possesses the key to this spring. 

She, alone, is the antidote of this virulent strain, for even the living dead cannot escape from such divine presence and bow in humility before her. 

She, alone, can crush the code of this deadly equation with a single bolt of lightning – in no more than 3 strikes of a minor key. 

She, alone, can crush the particles of those tiny hands, so they are then sucked into a Black Hole at a speed that is still unknown to us. 

And that, my friend, is the voice of Art.  

And she is everywhere. 

Hitting Ground While Listening To Bach

I never thought Bach would sadden me. I have no doubt if I listened to a live performance of the Brandenburg Concertos, those would bring me to tears, simply because they are so heavenly, and that’s where I go when I listen to them… heaven on earth. 

But this morning, while listening to the Orchestral Suite #3 – Air On The G String – I was overcome by sadness, as I looked out my window.

There is a narrow midway dividing either side of the street I live on. I can see people throughout the day who have severe addiction health issues. Sometimes it’s terrifying to witness the extent of the toll addiction takes on the mind and the body. But the centers follow a specific protocol (as does the Police department) before they can intervene.

Once the center has closed, for example, Powell provides security 24hrs, but not because why you may think so. They are there to protect those who travel along the street, throughout the night, those whose behaviors show symptoms of distress. However, they cannot force those persons to go to the hospital, unless they have their consent. They cannot intervene unless the person is on the ground, immobilized. That’s when they can administer the medication they carry in their vests at all times. 

Once a police officer arrives at the scene, that officer determines whether the person is coherent by their answers to several specific questions. This assessment determines whether the person can be forcibly taken to the hospital. If their answers are coherent, even within a narrow window of time, five minutes, for example, then no further action can be taken.  

But one cannot ignore the irony and cruelty of others, the strangers who take their evening stroll, the mist they protect themselves with. They do not see what is happening around them. Those persons, the undesirable ones, have been cast with a special role in their minds. They are the invisible ones. And so they keep walking. Best to keep walking away from them.

Throughout the day, however, when the recovery center is active, if a person exhibits troubling symptoms, they can call an ambulance, but the person, however far away, barely coherent, must still consent to be taken to the hospital. That’s when the paramedics show up. There are exceptions, of course, like violence does not require consent. 

Persuasion is a skill based on patience and empathy and exercised jointly between Powell staff and paramedics. In all fairness, though, one cannot deny rare moments that cannot be ignored. There is sometimes a certain level of humor present. Within that mass of confusion and distorted thinking swirling in the air, so spontaneous and uninhibited, renders others unable to resist a smile.

Traffic is brisk throughout the day, from early morning until night. And there is never a dull moment on my street. When I hear sirens, I already know their destination. Someone is in distress next door.

But back to this morning.

Early this morning, I caught a glimpse of a man pacing back and forth who was wearing headphones. I have no idea what he was listening to, if anything.

But that’s not what captivated my attention. It was his posture, his body in motion, that I could not resist watching. His head was stooped and so were his shoulders and no matter how many times he paced his posture never changed. And I wondered if this was how he experienced life. And the tension between him and Bach connected in a way I had never imagined. 

To Hell and Back Through Letters

Couldn’t help but share my experience in response to Robert Stokes Missive:
“Could not stop laughing at the Robert Stokes Letter.
I had a similar experience, but mine was a mere prelude to service, not an entire symphonic piece. Plus, my language was restrained. Last July the paper had published an opinion piece of mine, so I thought: Why not try again?
They thought about it for a couple of hours, and the editor got back to me and referenced the lovely language transitions, but the piece, she said, “is not quite right for our pages.”

I puzzled over that part of the response, as I had shared the piece with a friend and her response was: “Hilarious, terrifying, and insightful.” It reminded her of a British satirist, whose name she could not remember, and that she, too, had been to hell and back with Comcast. Others told me the reason they thought they had not published it was because Comcast is the King of the Internet in Baltimore, and the paper probably generated a lot of advertising revenue from the mouth of this King. There are more. However, they coexist in harmony, and support their territorial rights.

One comes from Saudi Arabia, for example, and though his influence appears to be essentially financial, it is remotely powered, for such a King would never actually set foot in Baltimore, unless absolutely necessary, and then would land here on a helipad.

Nonetheless, his influence cannot be ignored. An entire wing is dedicated to, and named after, him. In addition, it is impossible to ignore his presence, for upon entering one wing of this major medical institution (which similar to the Vatican, as in a city unto itself) one is overwhelmed by the godly dimensions and the size of his portrait. This act of vanity, however, would unleash the wrath of the Gods for its degree of hubris. Athena, for example, would pierce such a man with her gaze, alone, and thereby expose the hollow nature below the shell.

But I digress…
I cannot attest to the veracity of that conclusion, since I am still waiting for a response from the Editor-in-Chief of the paper, after composing, in a low key, my sense of bewilderment over that one phrase. In addition, I hinted how others had perceived the rejection, without ever revealing the seed of their conclusions. But most importantly, I asked him a simple question: What does that phrase actually mean?
It’s amazing how the most simple questions are often the most difficult to answer.”

“The Stokes Letter”
“Dear Cretins: 
I have been an NTL customer since 9th July 2001, when I signed up for your four-in-one deal for cable TV, cable modem, telephone, and alarm monitoring. During this three-month period I have encountered inadequacy of service which I had not previously considered possible, as well as ignorance and stupidity of monolithic proportions. Please allow me to provide specific details, so that you can either pursue your professional prerogative and seek to rectify these difficulties or more likely (I suspect) so that you can have some entertaining reading material as you while away the working day smoking B&H and drinking vendor-coffee on the bog in your office.

My initial installation was canceled without warning, resulting in my spending an entire Saturday sitting on my fat arse waiting for your technician to arrive. When he did not arrive, I spent a further 57 minutes listening to your infuriating hold music, and the even more annoying Scottish robot woman telling me to look at your helpful website.

The rescheduled installation then took place some two weeks later, although the technician did forget to bring a number of vital tools — such as a drill-bit and his cerebrum. Two weeks later, my cable modem had still not arrived. After 15 telephone calls over four weeks my modem arrived, six weeks after I had requested it — and begun to pay for it. I estimate your internet server’s downtime is roughly 35% — the hours between about 6 PM and midnight, Monday through Friday and most of the weekend. I am still waiting for my telephone connection.

I have made nine calls on my mobile to your no-help line and have been unhelpfully transferred to a variety of disinterested individuals who are, it seems, also highly skilled bollock jugglers. I have been informed that: a telephone line is available (and someone will call me back); that I will be transferred to someone who knows whether or not a telephone line is available (and then been cut off); that I will be transferred to someone (and then been redirected to an answering machine informing me that your office is closed); that I will be transferred to someone and then been redirected to the irritating Scottish robot woman, and several other variations on this theme.

Doubtless you are no longer reading this letter, as you have at least a thousand other dissatisfied customers to ignore. Frankly I don’t care. It’s far more satisfying as a customer to voice my frustrations in print than to shout them at your unending hold music. Forgive me, therefore, if I continue. I thought British Telecom was crap; that they had attained the holy-pot of god-awful customer relations; and that no one, anywhere, ever, could be more disinterested, less helpful or more obstructive to delivering service to their customers. That’s why I chose NT and because, well, there isn’t anyone else is there? How surprised I therefore was when I discovered to my considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment what a useless shower of bastards you truly are. You are sputum-filled pieces of distended rectum, incompetents of the highest order.

BT — wankers though they are — shine like brilliant beacons of success in the filthy mire of your seemingly limitless inadequacy. Suffice to say that I have now given up on my futile and foolhardy quest to receive any kind of service from you. I suggest that you cease any potential future attempts to extort payment from me for the services which you have so pointedly and catastrophically failed to deliver. Any such activity will be greeted initially with hilarity and disbelief and will quickly be replaced by derision and even perhaps bemused rage.
I enclose two small deposits, selected with great care from my cat’s litter tray, as an expression of my utter and complete contempt for both you and your pointless company. I sincerely hope that they have not become desiccated during transit — they were satisfyingly moist at the time of posting, and I would feel considerable disappointment if you did not experience both their rich aroma and delicate texture. Consider them the very embodiment of my feelings towards NTL and its worthless employees.

Have a nice day. May it be the last in your miserable short lives, you irritatingly incompetent and infuriatingly unhelpful bunch of twits. 
May you rot in Hell, 
Robert Stokes”

Lynched #metoo moment

(NOTE: I keep revisiting this case because I think it’s important to alert authorities of improper conduct toward other human beings – whether it be sexual or psychological – and it still has not been addressed by those whose responsibility it is to investigate such matters. Thus, it is still unresolved.)
I’m having a #metoo moment, but not about sexual assault, but about psychological assault by a system that continues to stigmatize those who have a psychiatric diagnosis, including the top tier of that system – medical professionals who should know better. Like the #metoo movement, this is about the gross abuse of Power, the lengths someone will go to when challenged, the immense stigma toward already vulnerable populations, and suffering the consequences of that wrath. I believe we live in a system where this type of behavior is enabled, and that’s a frightening thought – when the system fails to address and treat an infection within the system.
In 2014, the Department of Justice/Americans With Disabilities (DOJ/ADA) division was interested in a complaint I had filed against Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, regarding an experience I had there with an Emotional Therapy Dog, a delightful ShiTzu, while visiting a hospitalized patient. That experience interested the DOJ. They kept that file open for a year and an agent was in regular contact with me. Little did I know at that time, that I would become the subject of a complaint I never would have imagined, 2 years down the road. These are the only 2 complaints I have ever filed.
The traumatic experience at the GREATER BALTIMORE MEDICAL CENTER ER, took place in the Summer of 2015. The text of that complaint was documented and submitted through the website of the Americans With Disabilities Act Discrimination Complaint Form, and is provided below, including the automatic response and the reference number assigned this specific complaint, as well as acknowledgment of receipt of complaint. As of this date, January 30, 2018, I still have not received a response to this complaint.
The harrowing moment, described below, does not contain the details it should. Imagine a menacing nurse who is taunting you and trying to isolate you, and who is working at the behest of a doctor, whose ego has been bruised. When we reach the door, which they want me to enter, it doesn’t look like the door to an examination room. I’m still under the impression that my allergic reaction to a food I ate earlier is the reason for my return, but that impression rapidly fades when I see a man in the room who appears to be from Security. As soon as I enter the room, they lock the door. My friend has not been allowed to enter the room. However, there is a glass wall, and he can observe what is happening. They are trying to put me in the adjacent room, where they will presumably evaluate me, but that room has no windows, and I refuse to enter that room. Their arguments are not convincing. That is the moment when your Reasoning skills come to the forefront. Remember, these are very scary people. When they have no other choice other than to release me, they escort me, with my friend at my side, to the exit, as though I posed some sort of the risk – which if I had, they would have been able to restrain me, but they couldn’t – and when we reach the exit, the nurse makes a snide remark to my friend about my release.
COMPLAINT
GREATER BALTIMORE MEDICAL CENTER (GBMC)
“I was under the impression that I had filed the following complaint with the DOJ on July 23, 2015. However, I cannot find receipt of acknowledgment from your office. This is what I wrote on July 23, 2015, addressed to the ACLU, now edited to provide further details. This past week, I experienced a nightmare when I went in GBMC ER for an allergic reaction. I had been to the ER on Saturday night, suffering from heat exhaustion. The previous night, Friday night, Paramedics pulled me from my car and took me the Hopkins ER. On Saturday night, the symptoms of heat exhaustion were still present and my psychologist recommended I go to an ER other than Hopkins and I did. There, once the Attending Physician discovered I had a psychiatric diagnosis, left the room. A Fellow doing his Residence in Psychiatry, then came (I never saw the MD again) to discuss my psychiatric diagnosis, which is fine. That seemed to go well – at least that was my impression. The next night, however, was when the nightmare emerged and the sadistic behavior of the staff there was clearly visible. I had a systemic allergic reaction after I had eaten something and my hand became swollen. The same physician who had attended me the previous night also saw me that Sunday night. But before I saw him, a nurse attended me, and gave me 50 or 75 mgs of Benadryl to reduce the swelling on my hand. After that, a Physician’s Assistant saw me, and the first thing she said to me: “I can see that your Bipolar symptoms are exacerbated.” I looked at her and said: “What are you talking about? I’m here because of a severe allergic reaction.” My body was producing hives as we spoke. “Where did you get that information, about the exacerbation of my Bipolar symptoms? “It’s in your chart,” she said. “Really? And who put it in my chart?” The psychiatric resident,” she said. When the doctor arrived, I immediately addressed staff treatment of those with psychiatric diagnoses. He became hostile. And refused to examine my hand, and from a distance, called it a “superficial bruise.” Then, I said, there is no reason for me to be here. And I left, walked out. He didn’t stop me. A friend who was with me that night (an Epidemiologist) returned to the ER and discussed the reason why I was there. The Attending Physician then said, I could come back and be examined by another physician. However that is not what happened. I was tricked and escorted without my knowledge and locked in a ward with 2 security guards present and additional nursing staff. “What is going on?’ I said. They said they wanted to evaluate me. That is NOT why I returned to the ER. Furthermore, they had no right whatsoever to do this, as it was not the psychiatric diagnosis that was problem, but the allergic reaction that brought me to the ER. They had incarcerated me against my will, but in a most sinister fashion, through trickery and malice, because I had earlier challenged their treatment of psychiatric patients. If my friend had not been there, they had the power to hold me, a clear violation of my civil rights, and a dangerous breach of ethics. I demanded I be released, and they were forced to comply.
This type of behavior needs to stop.”
Americans with Disabilities Act Discrimination Complaint Form
Thank you for your complaint. Please retain and refer to the following reference number for any correspondence concerning this complaint:
16-1nz41-2u9a