“Yes, I’ll teach you to walk again,” said the master. “I can even teach you to fly. But at the same time, you must never want to walk, nor to fly.”
Tales from Fu Shan-hui
Being a Slave
Curzio Malaparte wrote one of the great books on war in the twentieth century: Skin. It deals with the American invasion of Naples and the resulting enslavement, not of the Neapolitans, but of the American soldiers, by the families of Naples.
In the book, each soldier is captured by one of the boys on the street and taken home to Mother, Father, and, of course, a sister picked out especially for him. If the process works, the new slave visits regularly, presenting the family with canned food, candy, clothing, and cigarettes. Each family guards its slave with special care, giving him everything he could possibly want — for to lose their captive would mean to lose the ability to survive in a war-torn, poverty-stricken city.
In the same fashion, many American expatriates here in Puerto Perdido, Mexico, are taken as slaves by the local families. We supply our masters with clothing, watches, food, loans, medical care for the children, and often employment. Our masters, in turn, care for us tenderly, providing us with a place to hang our hats, to eat, even to live, if we so choose. The best prize, however, is the gift of a young one: a godchild named for us.
Since I have been taken in by several families, I now have six godchildren — three of them named Lorenzo — and one more in the oven. My official title is padrino. This means that, once a year, on a hot Saturday, I get to go to the local church filled with infants in swaddling clothes to participate in a mass baptism, and, thereafter, for the rest of my life, to bring toys, clothes, and medicine to my namesake.
The baptism itself is a noisy affair: fifty or more children in an airless, echoing church of cinder block, its windows tinted by red, blue, and yellow glassine, its walls covered with immense (and immensely bad) paintings of a cream-faced god with a billowing cloud for a beard, looking down at a cross-hung, Aryan Jesus — his body nailed and bloody.
Names are given to the children at this time, five or six months after the child’s birth. They are never bestowed sooner because the infant mortality rate is high here, and the giving of a name implies permanence. Thus, for those first several months, my godchildren are simply called bebe or esquincle (little snot-nose).
We slaves have lost our freedom, but it’s a sweet surrender. If l need to go anywhere in my wheelchair — to the public market, to the beach — my owners will transport me there with care and affection. If I want a night out at a local restaurant, they will join me for huachinango or sopes. If I need someone to fix my plumbing or build a wall or plant a shade tree or watch my trailer while I am away, any or all of my masters will be happy to accommodate me. All that is required of me is that I pose for photographs on occasion with Lorenzo I, II, or III — hold him on my lap, and admire the fact that my namesake is smart, intelligent, beautiful, wise, witty, and as loving as his padrino.
Puerto Perdido is not far from the Guatemalan border. It’s a quiet town, on the edge of the Pacific — with a population of no more than twenty-five thousand.
The heart of our life in Puerto Perdido is an orchard a mile north of town, on a dirt road, in the foothills of the Sierras. We call it “La Huerta.” It consists of two or three acres filled with palms and limones and sixty-year-old mango trees. With its three springs of clear, fresh water and its deep shade — a must at this latitude — it is a quiet paradise.
There is a rich animal life in La Huerta — foxes and lizards and opossums and frogs and a huge white butterfly that comes in December, moving across the hills like a great white handkerchief caught in the breeze. There are dozens of different birds, and their Spanish names are as musical as their songs: golondrina, piporro, hurraca, calandría, el tiki, and la primavera that appears in the spring.
Each year, I bring my camper here and park it on a hill. And even though I love it in La Huerta, sometimes, late at night, with the silence and the lack of electricity and the distant, mournful call of the colonel bird, it’s almost too quiet for me.
A Sip of Urine
Enrique is old and spry, a former ballet master who claims he once danced for Krushchev and Mao. He owns an excellent lot in town that looks out over the harbor. I want to rent part of it from him so that I can haul my camper there from time to time and have a place to sleep on nights when I don’t want to be alone.
One day, while we’re shopping at the mercado, I send my worker Vicente to see if Enrique is free to meet with me. Vicente comes back in a few minutes with a sour expression and says he will never go over to Enrique’s house again.
“Why not?” I ask.
“He came out of his door and hugged me and said, ‘Mi amor.’ ” (My love.)
“For Christ’s sake, Vicente, he’s just being affectionate.”
“There were some girls on the street waiting for the bus,” he says, “and they saw it.”
Vicente is actually quite fetching, in an Indian way. His face reminds me of one of the gods from the ruins at Tulum. In any case, he assures me he will never go back and knock on that particular door.
When I find Enrique myself, I apologize to him for not getting out of the car, because of the wheelchair.
“Don’t worry,” he says at once, “I’ll cure you. I’ll make it so you can walk on water.”
“Tell me about it,” I mutter to myself.
“I’m a vegetarian,” he tells me, “and I drink a glass of my own urine every morning.”
I certainly don’t want to put him off — him and his plot of land — but I think dealing with him might be a bit too much, not only for Vicente, but for me as well.
“If you drink un copita de orina every morning,” Enrique says, “you’ll soon be walking. I am sure that Jesus did it — drank his own urine every day. That’s how he was able to walk on water.”
“Very interesting,” I say.
As Enrique takes his leave of me, I note that he moves so elegantly he seems to float an inch or two above the ground. Maybe that’s the trick, I think. Instead of my usual black coffee and aspirin for breakfast, to assuage the aches in shoulders and hands and hips and knees, I’ll just down a tart glass of piss.
There it is each morning, in its tight little container, warm and flavorful, waiting for me: the cure for all my ailments.
I have found that the very poor — at least those in Puerto Perdido — don’t talk much about being poor. And with very few exceptions, everyone here is poor. Sometimes I wonder if they even know they are poor. Mama Dip, a great character out of North Carolina, recently wrote in her cookbook-cum-autobiography: “I grew up and lived in poverty most of my life without knowing it. My children, too, grew up in poverty never knowing that they were poor. Our house just leaked. No screen doors. An outdoor bathroom and little money.”
The average wage for workers in the field here is $3.50 a day. For them, talking about being poor would be like saying how hot the sun is, or how beautiful the ocean.
The other day, Manuel, one of my weekend workers, told me how much he enjoyed eating the food I cooked for lunch at La Huerta. He said that when he was very young, he had nothing to eat but tortillas and salt.
“Just tortillas and salt?” I said. “Nothing else?”
“Nothing,” he said. Actually, he used the word nada, which, when people here want it to mean “absolutely, completely, positively nothing,” comes out as “naaa-da.”
Manuel grew up in a palapa — a shack of palm fronds — with no luxuries like electricity or running water. Since his mother was dead and his father was drunk most of the time, he was left on his own from a very early age. He couldn’t afford the uniform or the books to go to school past the third grade, so he would visit the nearby beach and play with the sand and the crabs and dream about the meals his mother used to cook when she was alive: frijoles and chicken mole and rich, delicious soups. I often think about Manuel as a boy, trying to make sense of the world, having to make do with tortillas and salt, with sand and crabs for playmates. Now, so many years later, he is probably my best worker.
Several years ago, Manuel married Maruga, who lived across the canyon from La Huerta. He’s a loving husband, and a caring father to his two sons. I tell him that I am proud of him, proud of the way he cares for his children.
“I don’t want my children to have nada,” he says, “the way I did.”
In el Mercado
The other day, I was at the mercado with Leopoldo and Manuel. We were eating the usual Sunday lunch of mole and tortillas and beans at one of a dozen or so eateries lined up next to each other. The traffic in and out of the market was heavy: people walking back and forth with their string bags filled with chicken, tortillas, dried shrimp, or sausage. We watched the lost babies, the dogs wandering here and there, the balloon man trying to sell us a globo.
This particular Sunday, a blind hunchback tapped his way up to us and ran right into my wheelchair. Instead of backing off, he started feeling around to figure out what he had stumbled over, muttering, “I’m blind. Help me. I can’t see. I’m poor.”
My table-mates chanted, “Mañana, mañana,” meaning, “Tomorrow, we’ll give you money tomorrow.” I stared at my plate, waiting for him to go away.
After the beggar moved on down the row of tables, feeling his way from chair to chair, I said, “You know what the Buddhists say. They say that blind man is God, and we have to be kind to him.” Then I went on eating my tortillas and beans.
When I was done, I left a two-hundred-peso note with Leopoldo, to pay for the food, and went off to buy some ingredients for supper. When he brought me the change, it was twenty-five pesos shy. “Shouldn’t there be a bit more change?” I asked.
“I bought lunch for the old blind man,” he said. “Was that OK?”
Leopoldo’s family lives down the hill from La Huerta. Their tiny plot is sere and brown, filled with nothing but scrub, thorns, and rocks. They need water for their goats and for cooking, so they used to send Leopoldo up to ask if he could haul water down to their place. Each day, he came on the family donkey to fill three twenty-gallon jugs. How they survive on their treeless, dusty plot of land — mother, six children, and an alcoholic father — I will never know.
When I first met Leopoldo, he was fourteen, but a daily diet of tortillas and salt made him look more like eleven. He never smiled and was very reluctant to accept our offers of frijoles or cheese from our lunch. Finally, though, I talked him into taking home the leftovers “for the chickens,” and soon enough — thanks to this free lunch — he began to bloom. His skin lost its pasty color, and every now and again he would smile as we handed over his daily rations.
One day, I noticed that Leopoldo was keeping his face turned away from me. I maneuvered my chair around and saw a raw burn on his left cheek. When I asked him what had happened, he mumbled something about having fallen asleep in front of the fireplace the night before.
Shortly thereafter, Vicente told me the truth: that Leopoldo’s father had come home drunk and told him to get out of the way, and when Leopoldo failed to move fast enough, his father had grabbed a brand from the fire and swatted him across the face with it. (I later learned that the father regularly beat Leopoldo and his brothers with a thick, doubled-over wire.) This kind, never hurtful boy — who was beginning to show a shy sense of humor, despite the fact that he was living in a dusty, waterless hutch with his parents and five siblings — was being brutalized by his alcoholic father.
I like to think that I believe in the Path. I try to shut up my babbling mind and see everyone as God. I try not to judge or hurt others — but I have to confess that, on that day, I came up with several graphic ideas of how to deal with Leopoldo’s father: Spray him with an AK-47. Douse him in napalm. Yank out his eyeballs. Stake him down naked in the pitiless sun and let the buzzards gobble at his liver.
As one of my friends says, “The trouble with Buddhism is that we read all the books, practice the chants, work on the Bodhichitta — and then something comes along and our wisdom goes up in smoke.” It might be a brush with death, a night of panic — or the knowledge that a bad man is hurting a good child.
What struck me most was Leopoldo’s sense of shame, for when I finally got him to tell me the truth, he spoke slowly, looking away absently, eyes unfocused, his voice a monotone. I didn’t ask many questions. But I told him that if there was anything I could do, to let me know.
I knew that if I went over and confronted his father, the old man would only wait until I was gone, then redouble his cruelty to Leopoldo for having let outsiders in on their family secret. I asked a friend, who has lived here for twenty years, whether there was any legal action I could take, and she said that the system here — as in the U.S. — is set up to protect the family. It would mean moving heaven and earth and becoming involved in a horrendous government bureaucracy to get Leopoldo into another home — and the effort would probably fail.
So what did I do? With not a little shame, I confess that I resolved the problem in typical capitalist fashion. I reasoned that, since Leopoldo’s family was living in the rawest poverty, one contributing factor to the old man’s violence was the frustration of having no money. In his father’s eyes, Leopoldo’s sin was that he was still a dependent, a drain, a drag on the family’s resources. If I give him a job, I thought, he will suddenly become a breadwinner. And the old bastard might be reluctant to brutalize the goose that lays the golden eggs.
So the next week, I gave Leopoldo the task of watering the plants at La Huerta. “I want you to be here as early as possible,” I told him, “and to stay as late as you can.” (Drunks usually beat up on those who are close at hand.) I arranged to pay him one hundred pesos a week, and also told him that he was required to eat lunch with us, since he was now part of the orchard’s work force. Leopoldo, whose face is normally as passive as stone, smiled widely, revealing a huge mouth (and terrible teeth).
“You’re a good worker, Leopoldo,” I told him the other day. As usual, he said nothing, but there was a bit of life that hadn’t been there before. He’s been learning to make silly jokes with the other workers, and even, like them, telling me to shut up on occasions when I wax too long on some boring subject in my wretched Spanish.
“I hope they are treating you well at home,” I said.
“Tal véz,” he said. (Maybe.) He thought for a minute, then added, “Now my father spends most of his time picking on Sergio” — one of his younger brothers.
My God, I thought. Pretty soon the whole goddamn family will be working for me. And so it goes. Sergio now waters the plants on weekends.
Most of my conversations with friends and workers at La Huerta occur at lunch. There is a large, open-sided palapa that looks out over the arroyo, and I cook meals on the gas stove there — serve up beans, chicken, eggs, and tortillas, along with the local cheese. As we eat, the others gossip about money, their family woes, the next weekend’s fiesta, or their girlfriends. Inevitably, at some point I will pipe up and say, “Saben ustedes que dice el Buda?” (You know what the Buddha says?)
There is a pause, and then I come out with something like “He says that all love is delusion,” or “He says all life is a pain in the ass.”
“Meditación,” I say: “All you have to do is shut up the mind. Just watch your thoughts.” If my friends bring up their Catholic vision of hell, I tell them that the Buddhist version is far more artful. “Ya estamos en infierno,” I say: We’re in hell right now. Hell is this thing called living. When we die, I explain, we stay dead for forty-nine days, then get sent back to hell again — back to earth for otra pinche vida, “another fucking life,” until we get it right.
My friends take my lectures in budismo with good humor, figuring them to be just another eccentricity of this eccentric old babbler from the North. Soon enough, the conversation goes back to where it was before my tedious interruption.
My Sweet Old Lady of the Mountains
I think of the aches and pains of old age as just so many bugs on the windshield of life. They come in such profusion, and so messily, too: liver splotches, high blood pressure, general fatigue, herringbone wrinkles (face, upper arms, upper legs), lumbago (great word, there), and all the many surprises that continue to flow from my personal double whammy — polio, 1952.
There are also ankles (swollen), heart (palpitations), joints (arthritis), septum (deviated), glaucoma (incipient), fungus (opportunistic), memory (fading), and what my doctor calls “pre-diabetes.”
Most shamefully, for what’s left of my vanity, there are wens and moles (which the Spanish call lunas, “moons”) and a disgusting collection of dewlaps, wattles, and crow’s-feet. In addition, there is the wicked tendency of my head to grow up and through the top of my hair. Finally — and most tediously — there’s what that oldest of pornographic books, The Perfumed Garden, calls “the drooping spout.”
Not long ago, there came a new visitor to this over-populated House of Malady: namely, a facial tic. It’s not painful, this twitching, but it’s like a drunken school chum who appears on the doorstep, moves in, and stays on (and on, and on) despite my hints. He bangs around at night, breaking bottles, wailing at the walls, frightening the neighbors, and amusing the hell out of the kids . . . when he isn’t sleeping it off.
My tic is like that. I’ll be writing in my journal or reading a book, and the son of a bitch will start up, fluttering my left eyelid in a grotesque parody of a wink. Wink-wink, it goes. Then a pause. Then wink-wink-wink, just like a door-to-door salesman after he’s told a particularly seedy joke.
I’ve been thinking about going to see a local doctor, but my worker Fermín tells me about an alternative. He and his friends don’t trust — or can’t afford — doctors, so they use curanderas: folk healers. To get rid of his backaches, Fermín went to a local witch, a bruja, who wrapped him in sheets, pronounced incantations, brushed him with laurel and leaves from the lemon tree, and rubbed him with eggs in the shell. When she was done, she advised him not to bathe for two days. Fermín tells me it’s been months now since his back has given him trouble. And when Manuel had knee problems, he went to a curandera. She had him lie down and roll up his pants, and then she sucked the poisons out of his knees with her mouth. That was almost a year ago, and his knees don’t bother him anymore.
I ask Fermín if his curandera can work on my wink. He agrees to take me to his village in the shadows of the great Sierras. He tells me his curandera is an old woman who lives up the hill from town. “I can’t understand her when she talks,” he says. She speaks Chatín, the language of the Indians of the mountains of Oaxaca. This is exactly what I want: an old crone with wrinkled hands, a magic language, and the Evil Eye.
We go to her place on a hot afternoon in April. Fermín pulls my wheelchair up the hill and into a darkened room that holds a bed and shelves covered with bottles and trays of herbs and spices. The old lady looks just as you would expect: tiny, barefoot, wrinkled face, impenetrable eyes, long braid down her back, plain white cotton dress with explosions of red and yellow flowers embroidered on it. And she has great Oaxacan feet, organic feet — winding, dark cypress roots you’d find buried in dark mountain lakes.
As she doesn’t speak a word of Spanish, my curandera has her six-year-old granddaughter translate. She tells me right away that she can’t help me at all with my insurance salesman’s eye. She says it’s “the fault of the air.” So I dig through my repository of ailments and come up with one almost as good.
“No puedo dormir,” I say. I can’t sleep. A lot of nights, I wake up at 3 A.M. and can’t get back to sleep. But there is a special twist to my sleeplessness that I don’t tell her about: if the Sand Man doesn’t come to visit within a couple of hours, the Panic Man comes in his stead.
My curandera tells me to take off my shirt and lie down on the bed, which smells of sweat and old hair pomade. She stands there for a few minutes, saying nothing. Is she gathering her magic powers? Or is she shy — awed by this hulking, six-foot-four, 185-pound, grizzled old gringo who came up the hill in his beat-up wheelchair? Since she speaks only Chatín, we certainly can’t exchange any pleasantries. (“What nice feet you have, Granny.”)
After a few moments, she pulls out a bunch of basil — rich, smelly basil from the Sierra foothills — and blends it with Vicks Vaporub. She pastes this concoction all over my back and front, reaching down to cover my upper thighs and smearing it over my knees and shanks. Then she has me sit up, steeps some other herbs and buds in the local firewater (mescal), and lathers this atop the Vicks.
Next, she takes an egg and — muttering Chatín wisdom to herself — rubs it over my shoulders and back and face and forehead. I want to feel something holy, something spiritual, but all I can think about is the blast from the local vocena coming through the room. Small villages here, lacking newspapers and radio stations, use loudspeakers to get messages out about food for sale, government directives, rare telephone calls, and emergencies. In this case, a very noisy woman is broadcasting, in terrible fidelity, the fact that she has pollo destacado — fresh, disjointed chicken — for sale.
After twenty minutes of rubbing and incantations, the witch tells her granddaughter to explain to me that I am done, that I am not to bathe until the next morning, and that I’m to pay her fifty pesos (about five dollars). Since I have no change, I give her one hundred pesos, which will probably drive up the going rate for witch-cures for this part of Oaxaca over the foreseeable future.
On the way home, I ask Fermín why the old lady spat on the floor as she was rubbing her revolting concoction all over me. “She was spitting out the chingaderas —” the shit — “that she found in your body,” he tells me. He says he’s seen brujas spit out splinters, pieces of wood, and even rocks that they extracted from their patients.
When I get back to my place, I try to take a nap, but the mixture of Vicks Vaporub and mescal and tiny leaves and buds and miscellaneous plant spikes makes me so itchy and wriggly and stinky that I can’t sleep. After a few hours of this, I say to hell with her instructions and take a shower. And that’s when my troubles begin.
That night, I sleep, as usual, from ten until about three. Then I wake up, and nothing — not pills, meditation, self-hypnosis, or appeals to the great Chatín gods — can get me back to sleep. Since I truncated my curandera’s cure, I figure, she has truncated my sleep. Over the next few days, my insomnia is worse than ever. At least, pre-bruja, I could usually coax myself back to sleep. But now: nothing doing. I toss and turn, and, just as I am about to drop off, I hear this Chatín muttering in my ear, “You’re trying to go to sleep” — which immediately brings me wide awake.
I go to my buddy Anna for advice. She grew up in Sweden but has lived here since 1980. When my world falls apart, as it does from time to time, she helps to put it — and me — back together.
Anna says that if you believe in witchcraft, it works. “It’ s powerful stuff,” she tells me. “But don’t worry about your sleep. It’ll come back.” These remedies always need a few days to take hold, she explains. She also offers me her witch’s services, in case I have other problems I want to address.
And Anna is right. Soon enough, sleep begins to envelop me. I’m ecstatic. Nine, ten hours a night of pure, unfettered, restful sleep — the best I’ve had in years. I consider contacting the American Sleep Disorder Society and getting it to tell its members to drop their doctors and their pills and come to Oaxaca so I can put them in touch with my sweet old lady of the mountains. I’m even thinking of learning Chatín so I can get her to tell me how the hell she does it. Can you see me running my own hometown sleep clinic with this magic in my pocket?
And this sets me to thinking: How about . . . the Big One? In 1952, my body went from age eighteen to age seventy-five, overnight. They came at me with their neurological weed-whacker, dove right in and frazzled out all my nerves. The first year I couldn’t sit up. The second, I couldn’t walk. After that, it was braces and crutches and orthopedic corsets full time. Cars with hand controls. Houses without stairs. No climbing the mountains again, walking the meadows, wading the clear streams, running the white beaches — never to dive free into the dark waters again.
So what would happen if I went back to the witch, and when she asked me what I wanted, I said, very casually, “Well, you see, I haven’t been able to walk since 1952. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I was thinking that . . . you know . . . maybe you could . . .”
I mean, hell, if she can handle simple sleep disorders, what might she do with paralyzed-for-life? My sweet old Chatín of the mountains.
Let’s do the big one, Mother.
The one I no longer dare think about.
Make me a late-blooming dancer, bicyclist, long-distance runner, mountain climber, Mother.
“How did it work?” Fermín asks me a couple of weeks later.
“Perfecto,” I say. “Now I sleep all night long, every night. It’s a miracle.”
“You want to go back?” says Fermín. “Maybe there are some other things you want her to do.”
It happened six months after they took my body from me. Friends and family would come to that dark little hospital and sit by my bed and say, “We’re praying for you.” Or, “We know that you are going to be completely cured.” Or, “Betcha you’ll be at the spring prom, dancing like mad.” For six months I heard that.
I don’t remember what I said to them. But I do know that for six months I would send messages from head and heart to arms and legs and feet.
“Move,” I would say. “Now,” I would say. “Move. Now. Please.” And sometimes, even, late at night, by myself, I would fall into dialogue with the divine on the subject of arms and legs and feet that no longer worked.
And one night, after six months, I thought, I’ve got to stop letting them down.
And then, ravaged by grief, I thought, No, I’ve got to stop letting me down. I knew that surrender — final, ultimate capitulation — was the only way I was going to get out of there alive.
And so, with the kind assistance of nurses and doctors and physical therapists, we installed high-voltage hazard protectors, shut-off switches to the psyche, circuit breakers to guard against the soul-crunching, self-ravening, heart-robbing miracle hopes — those impossible dreams that might well have driven me over the edge.
“You want to go back?” says Fermín.
“Ahorita — no,” I say. Not now. Let’s do something else. Let’s work on the arthritis. Or the backaches, the fading arms, the shoulders.
Or, barring that — how about the drooping spout?
That’s the ticket. Make me a lothario again, Mother. A sixty-five-year-old don Juan of the wheelchair, the geezed-out wonder of the beaches of Puerto Perdido.
The heavier stuff? We’ll work on that next year, or the year after — or maybe in the next lifetime or so.
Not now, Mother.
Happy Bird Day
Just as I am about to leave for the North, my birthday appears. I’m willing to forget it, but my pals won’t hear of it. When I get to La Huerta late in the afternoon on my last day in Puerto Perdido, they bring out a cake that they’ve bought with their own money. A birthday card has been painfully assembled by Manuel’s five-year-old son: a cutout of a large red heart is pasted upside down on the front, and when I open it up, it says, in English, in very large, childish letters,
It’s one of those silly little things that unexpectedly turn me weepy: Boo-hoo, they are my best friends, and now I’m, boo-hoo, sixty-six and I’m getting old and wrinkled and they are so good to me even though, boo-hoo, I’m such an old fuddy-duddy and now, boo-hoo, I’m sixty-six years old.
They take all my tears and hiccups in good humor, give me hugs, sing to me, remind me that birthdays are supposed to be feliz — happy — not sad. My workers, my friends — Manuel, Leopoldo, Vicente, Fermín — despite growing up poor and orphaned and hungry, are filled with such goodwill, for me, and for the world. They don’t fret about that dark surprise waiting for us all, over there, on the far side of the hill.
It’s near sunset. The Mexican jays, with their absurdly long tails and feather crowns, are coming in dark and noisy flocks to rest for the night. Down in the arroyo, the gray colonel bird starts up his evening song: co-lo-NEL, co-lo-NEL. From a neighboring valley comes a cry that I don’t recognize, one that I’ve never heard before: “Aye, aye , aye,” it says. “Aye, you’re old, Lorenzo. Aye, you’re going to die, Lorenzo. Aye, you’re not the only one, Lorenzo.”
I am surrounded by those who choose not to brood on that sad truth. The whole of humanity is teetering on the edge of the abyss, about to fall in, but my kind friends are still alive and merrily serenading me with that old love song:
Happy Bird Day to you, Happy Bird Day to you, Happy Bird Day, dear Lorenzo, Happy Bird Day to you.
A part of this essay originally appeared in the on-line magazine Spinewire.com.