Duel – Chase Yourself to Sanity in Five Quick Lessons.

David Mann rolled over. He was late. Again. Third day this week and it was only Wednesday. Different day. Same shit. The wife of 13 years was already downstairs. Busy. For hours. Occupied with the twins as usual. And it was always about the goddamn kids. And why did they need two anyway? Because God decided to play David another shit card, that’s why. And now all she does is bitch and complain when all he’s doing is trying to is scratch out a living. Paying on a mortgage too big for his shrinking paycheck. And the wife wanted another baby? Perhaps a girl this time. No fucking way, David thought. Not going to happen.

She never understood his hours, his increasing time away from home. His work grew longer – like a slow, barely noticeable pull on his favorite indulgence – banana Turkish taffy. Sooner or later something was gonna give. Snap.  He told her deadpan, seriously, how he hated driving hours to see customers and spending time away from the family. Naturally, it was the nature of his business, especially in the face of rising financial obligations, the boys. Five years ago, his excuse was valid. Today, he was best to not say to use the same excuse and she knew not to ask. They both knew the truth…

bonamo banana

David’s favorite candy. He liked to smell the wrapper. Had stacks of them in the glove compartment.

David Mann loved being away from 101 Sycamore Street. As much as possible. He just couldn’t admit it outwardly. Or inside, to himself. Best to go with the flow until death came. Good fucking riddance. Inside – relief at the thought. He was glad to be out of the house as much as possible. David was 45, felt 95. Thinking about how his father died at 45, he mustered a smile. Sweet relief. Coming soon? He wondered. Deep down he prayed. Checking out wouldn’t be so bad right now. At least his next trips would be his last. Off to Grayson’s Funeral Parlor, then Peaceful Rest Cemetery. No more long commutes, no more kids, no more wife, no more clanging of pots and pans holding meals he never had time to enjoy, anyway.

Right now, ironically, Emily Mann (formerly Anderson) was taking out her frustrations on the man-sized breakfast of a frying pan. Or the lime-green enamel stove top. Or both. He thought her especially loud this morning; deep down resentment festered when he slept in. After all, the missus was stuck with two whiny, living alarm clocks. With wheat-colored bangs. Twenty-four hours a day. They jolted her from slumber, religiously at 6:30. Never failed. So now, the frying pan, today, was the chosen weapon of pent-up hatred for a marriage that just died away, leaving what David called “scatters.” Like the bones of carcasses he counted along Highway 57 through his numerous business trips that took him deep in the desert. 

The trips were so tedious, like his life, his job. It all just fit together. There was AM talk radio, thank god, but most of the time, the babbling hosts weren’t entertaining enough to keep him awake, capture his attention for long. David would pull over, roll down the car windows. Full. Allow the heat of the desert to press and swirl around him in a dry-warm death dance. The faster he went, the tighter the grip. Heat and cold he still felt. Barely. The breeze felt good. And not much felt good lately. At times he felt the heat was a devil. Wrapping him. Suffocating…

David started this crazy game over a year ago. He’d catch a quick glimpse of death from the open window of his red Plymouth Valiant Signet and then along the way, through the dust and gravel of his life, his travels, he’d count. Count again. And again. Count the carcasses as he passed. Carcasses of friends he never saw again, people who died away. Carcasses.

What was left of living creatures after trucks, cars, weather and scavenger birds were done: The “scatters.” Traces of what was full of life once – never truly disappear. Scatters. He remembered how he smiled to himself when he thought up this word. It amused him. He laughed the more he thought of it. Looking around he was glad other drivers didn’t catch the insane guy, chuckling to himself, hair flying in the wind, sweat on brow. Dripping on his new Ray Bans. It was rare for him to spend money on himself. The guilt was too much. With the wife. The boys. Most of the time he did without. Penance.

A pissed-off wife’s alarm clock – a frying pan. Better than the goddamn so called “state-of-the-art” Panasonic alarm clock she picked up at Erickson’s 5 & 10, he figured. Shook his head. Cobwebs fell away. 

At least Mrs. Mann gave up waking him for anything. Everything.  A long time ago. David managed to focus. The first time of the day. Certain to be fleeting.

Thank god for small things, he thought.

And the fucking new alarm clock never went off?  At least he wasn’t sure. He thought he set it correctly, but David realized his efforts in the dark were clumsy at best. He’d been up all night. Exhausted. Trying to pull a miracle out of the hat to save one of his biggest and most reliable customer accounts.

He was notified yesterday, after 11 years of working together, that Bill Johnson of Johnson Electrical Circuits was ready to jump ship. For an overseas supplier. The death call came from central office.  Tough break. Same product – 20% cheaper. Stinking Japs. What was going on? What the hell happened to the competitive nature of the United States? Sad.

And the wife. Picking up this new-fangled Jap alarm clock with the clicking numbers, lights, bells, whistles he couldn’t operate. Hate began to rise up. She knows I’m losing clients to these bastards but spends my money on their shit. Perfect.


David Mann left the house at 10 that Thursday morning. Flew out. Barely a goodbye. His mind already setting into motion how he was going to lose about 30% of his pay, perhaps his job. And he was scared. Sweating. And it wasn’t even 70 degrees outside.

Time to hit the road. Same shit. Different day. Again. Rinse, repeat…

And now this goddamn truck is gonna mess up my day too? Why are you driving so goddamn slow! I’m going to be late. Are you counting the scatters? That’s my game! Scatters…

Wait…Now you’re on my ass? Did I piss you off? Great. Another wife. In a truck yet.

duel car truck


Steven Spielberg was(is) a genius. Early on in his career, in the 70’s, he managed to monitor and then document on film, the human condition. His strength was to show stories behind the stories. Turn stuff inside out until nerves were exposed. Then he danced on them. Until you couldn’t take it anymore. 

In November 1971, in an ABC-TV Movie of the Week, Spielberg visually spun a story. On a $450,000 budget. Completed in 13 days. Popular for over 41 years, he tells a tale of a middle-aged electronics salesman traveling in a Plymouth with a motor the size of a scooter, tortured, chased relentlessly by a faceless driver of a 1955 Peterbilt 281 Tanker monster along miles of a two-lane winding highway through a California desert.

The movie is popular, still. It frightens. Still. Why?

Because we’re all David Mann….

We are all “scatters.”

Random Thoughts:

1). Demons chase you. Rise up. When you least expect it. When you’re at a breaking point. When you’ve been kicked. You’re kicked again. At times you’ll be driving the wrong car, carrying the wrong thoughts and that monster truck, the demons will follow you. For miles. For years. Through the heat. How will you shake them off? What takes you to the breaking point. Write it out.

2). Scatters. How many carcasses have you counted? What scares you enough to wish those scatters whole again? Are they remnants of the dead you created? Do they follow you? When you stare out a window what do you see? When you stare into a mirror – what then? What are you driving today? A Plymouth or a Peterbilt? Are you being chased or are you chasing? What’s your test for the day? The week? The month? A lifetime?

3). Demons can be chased. And killed. Or at the least, set free. Establish your boundaries, turn the tables. The demons always believe they have the upper hand. Unfortunately, you’ll need to be tested to determine if this is indeed, true. The demons are overconfident. They can even play nice with others. But not you. To you, they’re deadly. They laugh in their hubris. At your fear. How will you turn the tables, surprise your demons today? Like David Mann did. And for a moment, moments, the trucker, the demon, held the upper hand. The stronger he became. The demon. Until his strength, his speed, overtook him. Right off a cliff. David Mann needed to take drastic action. Play the demon’s own strength against him. How will you turn your demons’ strengths into weaknesses, today?

4). Money demons exist. You’ve acquired them by watching your parent’s relationship with credit, debt, saving, investments. My parents were horrible with money. I observed their financial demons. Lack of life insurance, living only for today, not thinking of tomorrow. No wills, no estate planning. Those demons came for me. I fought them. Hated them. Have you inherited your family’s money demons?

5). What will lead you home? Is it something spiritual? Where’s your safe house? Find it. Live in it. Read it. Use it. Never turn what leads you home into scatters.

duel truck over cliff revised

Never forget…

The outwardly weaker being. David Mann. Won the “Duel.” 

His demon was outmaneuvered. Off the edge.

By a Plymouth.

Turned to.


And a new day had begun.

What Are Your Shackles? Understand the Ties that Bind.

1974: Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn New York. 1AM.

Your father wants to see you, he’s really hurting,” the man in the white coat said.

“He’s not my father. He tried to kill me tonight.”

“Now, there’s no reason to be ashamed, he has a problem.”

“Yes, he’s an addict who has bad aim with big kitchen knives.” Bob just missed my sleeping face and there was a pillow at home with a chef’s knife still sticking out of it to prove it.  I craved to stick it in a doctor that night.

“Your mother even says you’re the son.”

“My mother is nuts, too.”

I never witnessed anyone in real life in a straitjacket before. I didn’t believe there were such things as real padded rooms either, except for what I saw on on Looney Tunes cartoons. I loved what happened on my tiny black and white TV screen because it wasn’t supposed to be real. It was a wonderful rabbit-eared escape that kept me sane.

To this day I don’t understand the popularity of reality programming. I watch TV to escape all semblance of reality. At the time of this writing I’m reading how sit-coms are making a strong comeback. Thank God. Haven’t we all had enough reality for one lifetime? And the real cruel game God plays on us now is we all live much longer. He’s like the cat who toys with the mouse before he rips its head off. I can’t spend 80 years obsessing over Kim Kardashian’s ass and be healthy. Can you?

How far from reality can you go on a bottle of wine?

There I was-God’s mouse in a cage. Locked in a padded room (I heard the heavy strength of the door as it closed tight behind me). Alone with the asshole who tried to kill me a couple of hours earlier. He was sitting at the edge of a long steel table. Secured in a straitjacket. Rocking back and forth. I remember the room was cold. Super cold. Like morgue cold.

I remember this man. After many decades. And not because he tried to kill me. Mom’s boyfriend number 30, or something like that. I recall how incredibly tragic he was. Didn’t seem to mind being restrained. What was another chain, another demon, I guess? He was overrun, overpowered by the chains. Alcoholic, drug addict, bad hair, a greasy ducktail from the 50’s, and fortunately for me, bad aim with a chef’s knife.

He begged me to move closer. I did. Through his tears, through his repeated apologies, his bouts of anger, this boy toy was a curiousity to me. I wanted to understand how he ticked so I wouldn’t tick the same. His clock was way off from the rest of the world, the functioning people. In this room, his clock appeared oddly at home. Calm. Like his clock found the proper wall. Or off-the-wall. His eyes were dull. For a moment, I thought I could see demons floating in his pupils. Perhaps that’s what it means to have that “crazed look.”

Is this crazy enough for you? I’ve been there.

Never forget: We’re all shackled. We’re always three bad actions from insane. Granted, some people are shackled more than others. Some indeed require to be chained more than others. It keeps the rest of us alive and safe. Yet without shackles, you’re not alive. You’re not human. And God has already decided you’re going to live longer. Great huh.

Random Thoughts:

1). Know what shackles you.  Let’s face it. We have them. We own them. Several were created by others because we allowed it. Many were created in our own minds and have no basis in today, the now. Because kids called me fat in grade school, in my mind I’m still fat. No matter what. I have a fat shackle. Frequently, I’m amazed, as I observe myself, others, how as society we fail to have a solid grip on the chains that bind us. List them. After all, you’ve been living with them a long time now. Feel the weight of them. In your head. Around your wrists. Strangling you.

2).  What are your shackles made of? Understand the compositions. Some shackles will be thicker and harder to break than others. Like addictions for example. Identify and prioritize which shackles to work on cutting first. And don’t be shocked to see how long it takes to completely sever the bad shackles. And don’t be shocked to grasp how the chains are never truly broken. You will need to be aware of them the rest of your life. And as you know, you’re probably going to live to be 100.

3). What shackles your ability to gain wealth? Bad money habits most likely were passed on through your observations of others’ chains. How did your parents handle money? What is your very first money memory? How has early money behavior affected your current situation? It’s never too late to change it up. Cut the mental shackles that prevent you from becoming financially independent. Since you’re going to live a long time, it doesn’t matter if you’re 40, or 50. Just start cutting. Now.

4). Not all shackles are bad. Positive chains like saving, not misusing credit, studying, writing, exercising, sleeping are all healthy. List the good shackles too. Learn to make them stronger. Every day. Over time they will be thicker and stronger than your weaker links.

5). What’s your padded cell made of? Is it really so bad to be locked away? Where do you go to recharge? What do you do to recharge? Sharpen your saw. Love the quiet. Don’t be afraid to be alone with yourself. Still. You need the padded cell more than ever.

“I’m sorry I tried to kill you,” padded Bob said.

I shattered his nose. Hit him perfect. Apology accepted.

On occasion, I understand broken shackles can be fun.

No matter how long you live.


Lessons from a Fleabag Hotel. Fight the Yellow Sticky.

The smell of urine, semen and god knows what else (like there’s anything worse) filled my nose 3 stations before the train stopped at ground zero.

I could taste sour things way before.  The foulness overtook me. Absorbed in my clothes. I was paranoid about an air-born disease festerering in my liver.

The hollow of a play land called Coney Island-long deteriorated, burned out, rusted, ignored, graffiti ridden, was home to the Terminal Hotel.

Coney Island. Also home to the background for apocalyptic movies.

Only “The Warriors,” are not afraid of hanging around Coney Island.

The Terminal – It thrived, heaved in and out like an Amityville horror house but not as pretty. It was an evil presence that swallowed you whole. A landmark, a beacon, to the hopeless built right across from the elevated train line. There were no ghosts. Ghosts were too smart to linger.

The scary residents long or short stay were very real (but ghostly). They excreted more than normal humans should. And when the train passed, everything shook. Everything felt worse shaking. The residents shook. And fell. Some died right there in the entrance.

Mom couldn’t score a job at a grocery store or even a funeral parlor. And we had a great funeral parlor in our neighborhood. Those who visited the Terminal were dead but didn’t know it. And we were responsible for cleansing the linens of their gooey remnants. And there weren’t big enough washing machines; super-hot water wasn’t strong enough to handle the load (loads). Mom also handled the front desk. She was adept at making toothless barely-breathing death piles feel human.

I was forced to go. It was the only job mom could get that paid under the table. Along I went. Against my will. She played against my sympathy. She couldn’t do it alone. She needed me to strip the beds. I felt like I owed her even though I now realize I didn’t owe her. Cursing and screaming the entire way on the commuter train that railed you directly to the feet of darkness (what I called the Coney Island train station). Fridays after school and the weekends were no longer my own.

long-term resident. The Terminal Hotel. Coney Island. Join us!

I despised my own skin for an entire year. I couldn’t sanitize my hands enough. I didn’t want to associate with this.

I wouldn’t even touch myself below for a year (and you know how tough that can be for a boy who requires relief).

Why didn’t I consider gloves?

I just wasn’t thinking clearly on those trips.

Bed sheets were stained cloths. As rigid as plate glass in sections (hard, so hard in the middle). They were so soaked and dried, soaked and dried, and so wrinkled that the ends appeared to have shrunk. They’d ride up at the edges.

Almost seemed like they wanted to curl into a big yellow ball and die an honorable linen death.

It was customary to roll over a sleeping drunk to one side, then the other, just to expose what used to be at one time, a real mattress and get a sheet off. To me, there was nothing else on earth as putrid as these mattresses because they were NEVER cleaned.

Once I rolled this anemic looking passed-out naked black dude all the way into the hall just for fun. Later I found out he was dead and I didn’t know it. Real learning experience.

He appeared very peaceful. Too peaceful to be sequestered to a room in hell. He was in a far better place.

Once off the bed I’d drop the death piles of sheets to the floor and stuff them in a big laundry bag using a discarded wooden plunger handle. The handle was also a reasonable weapon to keep the toothless scrawny hookers away from me. I’d swing the stick way above my head like a lasso so they’d leave me alone.

 I was like sugar or meth to them for some reason.

No thanks.

I also learned the lessons of the yellow sticky in 1978.

I wished the hookers looked like this at the Terminal.

So what is yellow sticky?

Yellow  sticky are the shitty things you remember. Things that happened to you. Things you have really no control over yet affect you throughout your entire life.

Conditions that have been forced on you. Mostly unfortunate. Mainly through no fault of your own.

They’ve left a mark on you. Permanently altered your life filter whether you realize it or not

Look around. Think about it. There are many people you know right now who have cursed you with the yellow sticky.

It’s extremely challenging to shake off yellow sticky, too. Or at the least, work it down to a subtle buzz in your brain. The very best you can hope for is a channeling of its power into something productive. It can be done, but it’s going to take time. Steps to follow are coming. First, there must be awareness.

Yellow and sticky fades to clean but you’re never the same. It never goes away completely.

Everyone deals with yellow and sticky to some degree. For some, it’s as large as a bed sheet. Actually, your personal yellow and sticky is always large unless you’re in denial. And denial works to fade it. The denial method is temporary at best

Negative ways to deal with your PYS (Personal Yellow Sticky) Factor:

Drugs or alcohol. They do a fine job masking the factor yet the pain will return until next dosage. Over time the condition will worsen too if you don’t stop. You’re just trading in one yellow sticky for a numbing form of the same.

Therapists. My personal belief is they have good intentions but only make things worse. They’re attempting to cure you. That’s what they’re hired to do. From experience I’ve only become more confused by the processes they follow.

Anger. Anger will deteriorate your organs. Warp your mind. Cause cancer. Anger can cause you to lash out at those trying to help. Your door to healing will be cemented shut,emotionally.

Laziness. It’s fine to hang around, go numb to recharge batteries. It’s good for you. Ifyou’re spending a good majority of your time in front of the television, social media youmay be a victim of laziness. That is also an escape from yellow sticky. Learn to recognize and change the behavior.

Excessive work. The bookend to lazy. This has been my own way out for years. Sixty-hour work weeks on the short end, ninety on the other is a way to marathon run from yellow sticky. I can feel its presence chasing me constantly.

The harder and longer I work, thequicker and smarter it gets. On occasion I feel as if I’m on an endless treadmill and yellow sticky is a devious clown who hopes I stumble.

I shall eat you when you stumble. And you will stumble.

Overspending. Buying junk you don’t need, especially on credit, is just a temporary relief and enough of it will be detrimental to your financial health.

Spending within reason is fine. Spending to feel better is not healthy.

You want to know why America is sad? Why the majority is depressed?

Because we don’t possess the financial resources to spend like before. We can’t use our homes as never-ending ATM machines pumping out cash for new surround sound equipment or lavish trips.

I admit. I overwash sheets and pillowcases. Makes me feel in control. I’ve dropped every connection to yellow sticky in my life. I hadn’t seen my mother for 15 years. Oh I spoke to her on the phone from time to time but that’s it.

She died at an early age with me on the other end of the phone. I encouraged her to pass. The only way she was going to overcome yellow sticky was through death. I knew that. At the end, so did she.

For you, death is not an option.

Best it’s boarded up now. The smell remains…