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I guess the Great Mystery needs a good laugh or something... It keeps calling comedians back home. I just want to start bawling. Normally I don't feel this way when I hear about someone famous dying, but... damn. George Carlin passes at 71
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Celebrities always seem to go in threes.

First, Harvey Korman, then Yves St. Laurent & yesterday morning I heard we lost Bo Diddley.

Some days, I can really feel the years passing by.
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Thank you for all the time spent in Dungeons, fighting Dragons and dark wizards. Your imagination and creativity will be sorely missed.

Brightest blessings, Gary. We should have brought extra resurrection scrolls.
Gary Gygax passes on
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I think my ulcer is coming back. No, I know my ulcer is flaring up.

I know I've been praying for change, but... I think I'm too old for this. I like filling out job applications and going to interviews, but then someone has to go & offer me a job & I fucking fall apart. How dare they?

Can't sleep & all I want to do is eat to make the fire in my stomach feel better. But of course, it won't feel better no matter how much or what I eat because it's an ulcer. Four cups of coffee today probably isn't helping matters, either, even if they were spread apart. It's either coffee or booze and I am trying to get through the first week or so of my new classes so I can't sit around drunk for the next two weeks. And the alcohol would put my belly in even more pain. Blagrghr! A part of me just wants to quit the Excalibur but Rob is dependent on the insurance right now. I avoided phone calls from work today & I have to get at least 2 more days in this month just for the insurance. Then there's the whole thing about what if I actually do enjoy working at the DA's office and I do start to move up w/the County - will I honestly want to leave Las Vegas at that point? The good thing is that I can spread my classes out a little more once I am working for the county because if I pass probation I'd like to get at least a year of experience in an entry-level IT position.

I may just give up for the night & play WoW for awhile.

Reincarnation Babblings )

Wow. My stomach has loosened up some. Nice. Of course, now that I recognized that it loosened up, it immediately spasmed and the fire flared up. I can go for an hour or so without thinking about the DA's job, but then my mind-hamster gets back on the wheel for another spin.
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Well, we went to the indoor swapmeet & walked the whole thing. I did get Rob's pwesent - a quite Goth mantle clock w/the Grim Reaper presiding over time. Ran into Jamal who used to sell leather coats - his son has a booth there now. We also met the coolest Burmese python at the swapmeet. He's about 10' long, and acts just like Ed. Wanted his chin scratched, liked to be petted, wanted to investigate all the new people standing around admiring him. He's amazing - whoever owned him previously socialized him completely, and he was in very good health. The reptile guy had him out & was just letting him roam the floor a little - a good sized crowd gathered & the snake was completely unfazed. He even took time to climb up the display case (well, he used it to prop about 1/3 of his body up) so he could see eye-to-eye with me. Had this huge head & beautiful eyes. If $350 fell outta the sky right now Harry would be coming home w/us tomorrow. I have never met a Burmese with that kind of disposition before - usually they're grouchy and like to bite. I'm a little apprehensive about ever actually owning a snake twice my height. Ed could probably do some damage, but if a snake twice your height manages to knock you down & you can't unwind them, well... either you're dead or someone ends up hurting the snake to make it let go.

It was kind of weird, but Rob was making a concerted effort to talk to people. Talked to the pet shop guy, visited w/Robert Knight, who sells knives, we visited w/a guy selling guitars - he was pretty cool. He also makes custom wardrobe cabinets for stage use & amps & stuff like that, was a former roadie, just a nice ol' dude.

Then we went to the doc for Rob's test results. He's been fearing the absolute worst-case-scenario, involving pancreatic cancer or something equally fatal (diabetes can be symptomatic of both pancreatic & colon cancer), and found out that nope, he's just adult-onset non-insulin-dependent diabetic. Which is pretty fucked up all the way around. I may be a foodie, but Rob loves food, moreso now than ever because I keep introducing him to new things to eat & adding techniques to my somewhat limited repetoire. So now, well, it's pretty much low or no carbs. And since I can't torture him by eating bread in front of him, I'm on his diet, too. No more fast food, no more convenience food... it's all home cooking or salad bars :P

All of this has made Rob examine a lot of his views about life, death & what lies beyond. He's trying to find something or someone to believe in. I finally told Rob that I'm embarrassed to express compassion in front of him. I've been trying to pull more of Bear's energy to me - less of the chaos of Coyote. I've also been analyzing my Morbid Fascination w/death. All my life I've been drawn to death and I can't explain why. I'm still frustrated over not being able to become a mortician. I would have much rather spent the last two years learning how to care for the dead instead of caring for dying PCs. As a result, I've done much reading and research and examination of death, dying, the funerary traditions of the world, beliefs about the Afterlife, the cosmogony of death, how death (oooh oooh ooohh MMORPG - StarGate Worlds!!!) began... I've even died before and lived to tell the tale. Because my beliefs of reincarnation are not strictly adhering to the rules of Buddhism or Hinduism, I've got a lot of unresolved questions about ghosts. I believe there are ghosts, but I'm not sure why there are ghosts. I also haven't quite gotten the population thing figured out - have more people been born right now than ever lived on earth & where are the new souls coming from?
I've also learned, through the Guedde and Baron Samedi, the Muerte and Coyote and Anubis, Persephone & Hades, Kalmia, Hel and all those Cthonic deities, that death, the Great Equalizer, the Ultimates of Ultimates, is ultimately funny. Death is the greatest practical joke ever created. Skulls have wacky grins for a reason. One of my favorite parts of the Dead Like Me series was the intro - all these Grim Reapers going about their daily lives. I like to see skeletons doing absurd things, like golfing or sitting slumped over computers or on those 'Position Wanted' posters. It's befitting. Yes, there is grief, and the recently dead folk do deserve respect and the maintenance of their dignity, and there is great power in death, but it's also freakin' hilarious. Death is always smiling because he 'gets it'. Unfortunately, Rob doesn't 'get it'.

(An aside: I don't think Wiccans 'get it' either. Yes, it's a relatively young and unorganized religion, but there is little or no speculation about the nature of the soul or where you go when you die in Wicca. The Summerlands are sort of a version of the western Christian Heaven. It's as if no one ever gave much thought to what happens once you cross the Veil. Some Shamanic traditions pay far more attention to the soul than to the life it supports. In some threads of Nordic faith, the soul is nine-parted. They have rules and regulations as to who goes where when they die. Wiccans know there is a Veil, and things can cross over it, but they focus far more on this side of the Veil than the other.)

We didn't get a whole heck of a lot else accomplished. No voter registration, no walking shoes or socks, no yoga pants... But we did get out of the house & Rob did get out of his own head for a few hours. I've also got a fridge full of veggies, yay. And we met Harry, which made the day worth it all on its own.
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Breaking Yahoo! news claims that Tammy Faye Baker-Messner has died.

Tammy Faye dead at 65

I used to have a huge white t-shirt that had make-up smudges on it & it said, "I ran into Tammy Faye at the mall." While not being a Christian has made this story another mere by-line to the '80's for me, she did try to do some good in her later life. I saw her interview w/Larry King & it was sad but uplifting at the same time. She was kind of creepy, but she was also one of those 'southern Ladies' that always try to say something nice about others in public.
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Early this morning, Jody & Terry's dad passed away. He'd had numerous small strokes since mid-November. Everyone in their side of the family did get the opportunity to say good-bye. He had told the nurses he wanted to live past Christmas so he wouldn't ruin the holiday for his great-grandkids, and he made it.

A toast, to one of the greatest Hell-raisers this side of the Mississippi. There really aren't many old dudes like Larry in this world.

Other than that, I wish everyone a safe and healthy New Year.

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
- M. Louise Hastings
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I don't know if enough people read my journal for me to receive any criticism for what I'm about to type, but I want to remember this day. And maybe people doing a search on the name will run across the rant I'm about to launch.

I don't normally jubilate when people die. I mean, it's a common, everyday occurrence, it's the only guarantee we have in life, and everytime someone dies they leave the living behind, saddened and mourning and lost. I do feel empathy for the families that are left behind.

Steve 'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin has been killed by a stingray.

I'm so fucking relieved it isn't even funny. It's about freaking time that maniac met his just rewards. I'd watch him flipping poisonous, dangerous and endangered snakes around like jumpropes, watched him tease crocodiles with lawn mowers & his kids, watched him act like some big macho Beastmaster or some shit, pissed off at how disrespectful of his zoo's inmates he was, and wish that one of those bushmasters would just nail him right in the damned face.

I think a quote from the Bloomberg article sums it up:
"Stingrays aren't aggressive and sting only when threatened" said Bryan Fry, deputy director of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne. ``It didn't sting out of aggression, it stung out of fear.''

Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin Killed by Stingray (Update3)

Everyone around would say, "Oh, he's probably not really like that when he's running his zoo. He's just a showman on t.v.". Yeah, about as much of a showman as the Jackass crew.

I've been handling snakes a looong time, since I was very little. I have slept with my snakes (or they slept with me, more like). I took the time to speak with herpetologists and snake owners and herpephiles to learn the proper care & feeding of reptiles. I watched Ed go from being malnourished, dehydrated, too skinny, his skin tearing like paper from his wretched owners, kept in squalid conditions & actually survive & thrive in my care. Ed is sooo fat & so content and so loving...

People like Irwin make it look like any ape with opposable thumbs can pick up a wild reptile & keep it as a pet, or worse yet, sling it around like so much tinsel. My only wish is that it had been a snake that killed him, but having a stingray impale him is almost as just a death... I wrote protest letters to Animal Planet about keeping him on the air, but I'm not paying for their shows, dig? People like Steve Irwin are why there is a need for shows like "Animal Cops: Miami" & "Animal Cops: Houston". Not to mention the one about the venom clinic.
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Last night my coworkers accosted me in the hallway with a tiny little birthday cake & told me I couldn't make a work-related wish. Well, my non-work-related wish came true - it rained!

Sheung Yi, my Capricornian counterpart, went to the Bellagio & picked up these decadent little cakes - coffee layered, fudge mousse, pumpkin & carrot. These little cakes were unbelievable, and pretty, too. She also got me U2's 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb', and my current favorite song is 'Peace & Love or Else'. It's funky. Sheung Yi is a New Year's baby, and I can't go all out for her due to timing, but I got her a cupcake cake & a mini-mousse all her own, complete w/birthday candle.

The other day, Maggie called us. She's got a 3-yr old daughter & a new husband, been working security down at the courthouse. I don't think about her much, she was only a 2-time fling. It's weird to get calls like that out of the blue, and goes to show we should change our phone number more often.

Been thinking a lot about the relatively short lifespan of many of my relatives, thinking to myself that at 32 my life is about half over. The first 30 years went by so fast. Thinking about all my attempted suicides and how the easiest one is basically living til you die. It's a slow, painful and painfully dull suicide, but it has a huge success rate.

I have to work tonight, which means navigating traffic & road closures. Still got to cook dinner, wrap Sheung Yi's present, get dressed, etc. & so forth. Shooting to leave at 7:30 or 7:45. I'm having lamb for dinner!
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Been thinking about my health. Why I let things go til they put me in misery or break (like my teef)... Why I don't like exercise, refuse to diet, why I basically stay slothlike & self-indulgent...

Why prolong the inevitable? With any luck, considering my weight, blood pressure & cholesterol levels, I'll be dead before I'm 60. Either that or I'll die of a heart attack the day after I have to mandatorily retire at 67.

I've tried to commit suicide so many times, and have never succeeded. I've got an amazingly high drug tolerance, and an amazingly fast clotting time. Apparently, I'm dying of natural causes, another accident or someone (like the BodyWorlds ninjas) is going to murder me.

Yes, I could just put a shotgun in my mouth & pull the trigger, but I have a great fear of unsuccessful gunshot wounds. I frequent gore sites, and I know someone can survive w/half their head blown off, or with their face ripped in half... It's not pretty, I'm sure it's painful beyond belief, and then there's the recuperation & commitment to a mental hospital to look forward to.

Exercise, any form of exercise, is boring. I'm doing these stretches for my back & knee, and they are boring. Yoga is boring. It's the mindless repetitions. It's like the rest of my everyday life - doing the same thing over & over again w/no real results. Meditation while exercising has grown boring - I can listen to the Himalayan monks chanting anytime I zone out for 5 minutes - I don't have to be in the 'Drinking Lion' position to achieve that.

I've put it out there that I'm giving up on being a mortician & going to be a CPA, and not a single person has offered any condolences or said to me, "Gee, why give up on your dream?" No practical advice or shoulders to cry on have come my way. Rob's only interested in the bottom line after my 6 years in Hel are done & over with. And school - I'm looking down that barrel right now - less than 3 weeks & it starts. Back in July it felt like I had time... Now I'm starting to panic. I'm just sort of launching myself at it w/grim determination & gritted teeth. Not going to let myself drop out again. Going to do it - but even my self-support is grown weary and half-assed. Which means I'm going to slog through the next 6 years like I've been slogging through the past 4 years of the Excalibur.

I am so tired, and my soul is so cold. And I just don't care anymore. I'm used to disappointment, I expect it. It's the only thing I can rely on in this world.
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Once again, Rob found himself musing about the whole Terry Schiavo situation. He's still horrified by the fact that she basically died of dehydration. He gets on these kicks. Rob is nothing if not a survivalist. He wants to be kept on life support, resuscitated til he's pounded into a bloody pulp, made into some sort of cybernetic mutant nightmare... and I don't. Don't resuscitate me, don't put me on life support, don't go to any means, extreme or otherwise, to keep my ass around. I haven't given up on the notion of suicide entirely, but teenaged attempts proved unsuccessful. I survived being hit by a car, I am afraid of shotguns because, even tho I think the photos were faked, I think about the pictures of the kid who tried to blow his head off & the experts blamed it all on Judas Priest... and I must have a really, really high tolerance to most forms of chemically induced death (one can only wonder why...), so I'm stuck here for awhile. Anyway, when I die, cut me up & distribute me to the needy, or if my sedantary lifestyle has ruined me for donations, give me to Bodyworlds, and if I'm too hideous for even Bodyworlds, give me to the Body Farm... but Gods, please, the next time I actually die, let me go.

That said, after arguing about the need for a will to state that he wishes to be kept alive by any means necessary, Rob & I got into a philosophical discussion about the soul. Where, in fact, does it reside? Can exanimate flesh be brought back, soul intact? Are we just a composite of chemical reactions in the brain? Can hard science, electric stimuli, artificial respiration & heartbeat bring back someone once they're dead, and if so, are they still who they were before they died?

I believe that the soul & the flesh are two separate things, bound together for practicality & convenience, kind of like sharks & remora. The shark, efficient biological machine that it is, is the flesh. The remora, small & unobtrusive, maintains the shark & keeps it in good running condition - that's the soul. Rob's views on when life begins involve conception, maybe even something in the sperm & ova... I believe that life begins at the first breath. That's when the average human gets their soul. That's why it's so important that one's life starts out w/a slap on the ass & a scream. You have to suck in a soul. Without that initial breath, the baby dies, no soul enters. And when you die, you breathe your last breath & there goes your soul. Gone to wherever it came from. Returned to sender. Which is where zombies come from, at least, movie-concept zombies. They are the soulless bodies that are just reanimated. You have to work fast if you actually want to bring an individual back to life. There's a limit on how long someone can be dead & be successfully revived - the soul's got things to do, places to go, new people to be. It can't hang around a corpse for days on end, waiting for it to breathe again. The human brain rots remarkably fast - decomposition begins almost immediately. People in long comas who have been autopsied after they finally let go or are taken off the life support show that, even tho their lives were in suspended animation or being artificially induced, the brain had already begun to decompose. I think there's even a slang term for it, something like 'coma soup'. The soul left long ago & only the shell remained. Extreme cold is about the only thing that retards it, gives a person maybe a half hour extra, which is why a person who's died in frigid water can be successfully revived w/little brain damage. So therefore, the brain must be home to the soul - within minutes of the soul vacating the premises, the property value drops.

It's all a little irrelevant, tho, now that I'm thinking about it. Rob can wish for immortality all he wants - maybe by the time it's his time to go, they'll have technology out there that can give a human an endless lifespan. I won't be opting for it and that's enough for me.

I'm just meandering, trying to put some thoughts down on paper. I read 'Susannah's Song' (The Dark Tower Series, book 6) by Stephen King over the past two days, and he had put in a journal at the end. Part of me wonders if it's the real deal (all up to his 'death' from being hit by that van) or if it's all made up. It's probably a compilation of real events & those thrown in to show the coincidences between his life & the lives of his fictional characters. I've always liked the Universe that King created - towns & people cross the pages & covers of their own books & make cameos & guest appearances in others. The world the Tower inhabits is in almost all of his writing, in a way. I've grown up as familiar w/that world as w/this one - I think of fate as 'ka', and can accept the notion that the entire Universe we know hinges on a singing rose in a vacant lot somewhere. Ka is also Egyptian, but I can't remember if the 'ka' was one of the souls, or if it was something akin to destiny. I remember that the 'ba' was the portion of the soul that resembled a bird... but did it fly to the Underworld to be weighed, or did it stay w/the body? (Of course, typing 'ka ba' in the search window gave me references to the Ka'ba at Mecca). (ah, loosely, the ka is the soul tied to the body by mummification, & the ba is free to fly).

I think the shot tech who gave me my allergy injection got me in the muscle. It hurt. A lot. Moreso than any of the others. I've got a lump there. I've got a lump on the other one, too, but that one itches while the one on the right aches. Deep. I yelped, and normally I'm very stoic. Of course, I am also running on approx. 2 hrs. of sleep in the last 36 or so, so I'm a little more sensitive. Burned Nag Champa in here to clear the airwaves. I was listening to Cirque du Soleil's 'Nouvelle Experience' before he left, trying to wind myself down a little so maybe, just maybe, I could go in my room, play my Delta Sleep CD & maybe actually fall asleep. But Rob got me all wound up before he went to work. Bastard.
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Friday night I was sitting at work when I started thinking about my Ambien prescription, seriously wondering what would happen if I took the whole bottle. Would I puke before it knocked me out? Would my body even try to expel the little white pills or would it accept them as easily as sunflower seeds?

I felt like a 14-year old w/angst. I kind of still do. Knowing that it would only bother one person in my life if I actually did kill myself. (Of course, I had to tell Rob, "You know, you're the only person it would destroy if I offed myself" just because I knew it would upset him. Yes, I am that mean, and I am getting bad Karma for it just for snickering about it while I type). It would be a relatively easy suicide if my guts didn't betray me... Rob is usually afraid to wake me up, even after my alarm goes off. I could probably even run a hot bath & die in the tub & he'd only wonder what happened after 2 - 4 hrs. had gone by w/out eventually hearing the shower. He'd come in & I'd be a pasty white floater.

I'm just really tired right now of the purposelessness of my life. I have no ambitions, no goals, no aims. I go to work, I come home, I care for the house and that's it. There is nothing grander in my world. And my life is going to be like this until I die... so why put it off? Knowing that the next 30 years will be much like the last 30 years isn't a real pleasant concept. I should have stayed a drunk, should have started exploring the 'Doors of Perception', gone off to live in the desert on tequila & the flesh of the gods - at least then my angst would have poetry to it. Without the tequila & the desperation, it's just me whining because I'm bored with the American dream.

But Friday night it swept over me in its usual fashion, a great cold dark wave... Washing away whatever mirth or laughter may have been in my head & replacing it with the hard truth that I am still depressed and still have to fight through it. The wanting to sob is the worst because nothing is there. There is still a grand amount of curiosity mingled with the depression. What would it be like to truly die, to not be yanked back at the last moments. What is it like to choose one's own death, to make the conscious decision to end one's own life? Wondering if Rob will actually let BodyWorlds have me or if my flesh will end up charred to ashes & packed in a little jar somewhere... To know that dissolution of all that is 'me', all that is 'Janelle F., nee Smith', all 31 years, all 240lbs. of me-ness that sits here in this chair, nodding off to the one Ambien I took.

Happy Ostara, everyone, happy First Day of Spring.

Context

Nov. 21st, 2004 08:44 am
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So, as I've been letting the BodyWorlds exhibit filter thru my subconscious, something finally dawned on me. I have such a vested interest in the forensic sciences, & usually when you see a dead person outside the context of say, a morgue or a funeral setting, it's an indicator that something is out of balance. Usually, it means the dead person was murdered or in a fatal accident - something wrong, in other words. So the BodyWorlds exhibit features a whole bunch of dead folk, & they're all out of context. And everyone alive who was wandering around seem to assume that these people must have met some horrible fate... no quiet, in-home or in-hospital deaths... everyone was speculating on what accident or intentional harm befell the plastinates to cause their deaths. I was even a little caught up in the mindset.
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From a letter to the Hula Rat:
I’m sitting here trying to write about the BodyWorlds exhibit, but I think it’s still a little too fresh. I mean, the trip went incredibly smooth, almost to the point where it was unremarkable. The airport has these express kiosks – you just pop your credit card into it & a boarding pass pops out. The worst part was the security check – I had to take my shoes off, Rob had to pretty much strip (shoes, suspenders, belt), empty our pockets… we took way too many coats. The flight was packed going out to LA – felt like sardines. Rob gets airsick, so he was adamant on getting the window seat, which meant I was wedged in the middle between him & some old guy who couldn’t figure out where to put his arm. I still love to fly, tho. Feeling the engines & that brief moment of weightlessness when the plane finishes its ascent & starts to level off.

I gave us so much time on either side of the flight because I figured traffic would be a nightmare – Monday morning/evening in Los Angeles? But it was bizarre – wherever we went, the traffic jam was going in the opposite direction. Rob hated the way people drive out there – too fast on the freeway, they cut you off, and the shuttle driver that took us from the airport to the rental car place was a lunatic, on & on. I was actually thinking to myself that it wasn’t that bad the whole time. The weather was gorgeous – cool, overcast, little bursts of sprinkles every now & then.

The California ScienCenter is huge – 3 floors. The BodyWorlds exhibit is split between the 1st & 3rd floors. There’s all these interactive exhibits set up throughout the rest of the museum – kiddy stuff, but me & Rob like to play w/stuff, so we didn’t feel like it was wasted on us. There’s a very mean one set up w/a tank full of goldfish – you push a button & the goldfish are subjected to a strong current of water, & then you push a different button & the current changes direction. We were thinking, “Gee, this place probably goes thru a lot of goldfish.” So anyway, we roamed all over the place, but the actual BodyWorlds part seemed very short compared to the rest of the place. The displays were sort of grouped in the middle of the rooms, w/a lot of airspace all around. The rooms had black wall-hangings, w/banners & murals of Renaissance-style anatomical drawings & quotes about the body from various people. A part of my mind actually was more drawn to the Renaissance art than the displays, but I could see where Professor Van Hagen drew his influences from. I saw a lot of ‘Wound Men’ (reference from ‘Silence of the Lambs’).

I also expected the actual body pieces to be cleaner, more… I don’t know how to say it… more dressed, smoother. I saw a lot of connective tissue, looking like frayed nylon sprouting from bones & muscles & organs. I think its called fasciae, but I can’t remember. I’ve butchered deer before, & it’s that white film between the skin & muscle– you leave it intact to act like plastic wrap & to protect field-dressed meat from flies. I saw a lot of it clinging to the flesh. It kind of bothered me, but then again, these are real people. Rob kept saying that nothing looked ‘real’ to him, which made it where he could go thru the museum w/out too many psychological problems. But I kept seeing loose shreds of skin & cartilage, dangling here & there, random bits of people that had flaked off & fallen out. I also was kind of bothered by the way the sculptors had sort of tacked on people’s eyebrows & lips. I think a lot of the cadavers would have looked better w/out the glued-on details. I could understand the use of dyes when it came to highlighting the veins – but wow – they picked an alarmingly neon shade of red to do so.

I’m not complaining about the exhibit – I stood inside, & just looked around before I started perusing & I almost wanted to cry or spread my arms & bless the whole thing, because I saw people of all ages looking into themselves, pointing, talking to each other – groups of kids ogling dangly bits… there was even a group of medical students treating one of the displays like a lesson – pointing at the various pockets & folds of an opened torso & naming them. I think that’s what really got to me the most – people getting intimately acquainted with their pockets & folds & ducts. I looked at a healthy knee & saw what mine is missing. Rob got a sexual rise from a few of the female cadavers – the very male instinct to look for hairy lips & clits, comparing himself to the male cadavers… got to see some of those medical marvels – the artificial heart valves & knees & hips & walked around w/a twinge in my left leg because I was thinking that instead of just having pins bracing the break in it, I could have ended up w/one of those huge metal plates.

I expected the cadavers to all be elderly people, but some of them were obviously from younger people. Nothing on the displays indicated anything about how or why the donor died, or who the donor was. Nothing to differentiate them except for variations in musculature & organs, & the obvious departure of male/female. Some of them, like the one posed as a basketball player, had huge shoulders & arms. One arm, in fact, still has me wondering how big the owner was – it was so ripped! You couldn’t tell race or culture. Other than minute forensic details we are very literally the same under our skins. Even facial features were hard to make out. I saw two cadavers w/almost the exact same nose – broken & crooked at the bridge. A group of black girls was intimately exploring one who was holding up his own internal organs, trying to determine how he died – one just kept saying, “Well, he wasn’t shot – I know because his insides aren’t all to’ up. My brothers insides were all to’ up. This man had an easy death.”

I wanted so badly to touch the displays, to run my hand down arms & up calves & cup buttocks & breasts, to put the back of my hand against cheekbones & jawbones, to run my fingers across the ridges of a brain or to down the xylophones of ribcages – but alas, the exhibit was strictly hands-off, & no photography, either. It was all so much poetry in red & white & gray. Still-lifes. Suspended animation. One of them, a runner, w/all his muscles separated & spread out from his arms & legs, reminded me of a Native American dancer w/feathered arm & ankle dressings. There were two ‘swimmers’ hanging from the ceiling – they could have been flying just as easily.

So in this celebration that is the human being, there were a billion warning signs leading to the room where a pregnant woman lay on her side, & fetuses floated in jars. It struck me as being overly sensitive, but it is California, & we just re-elected an anti-abortion/anti-birth control president back into office. No one seemed horrified at the displays, tho, and everyone we came in w/went & saw the pregnant woman. A man w/two young sons asked them if they wanted to know what it looked like when they were still inside their mom & they said, ‘Sure, dad’. One of the boys said it was incredible, beautiful, and sad because the baby & mother are so close together at that point. For me, it was blasé – I’ve seen fetuses in jars before. And pregnancy is the least interesting thing on the planet from my p. o. v. But I looked, just to be able to say that I’d ‘seen the elephant’, so to speak.

I liked the preserved slices. Whole people specially prepared & sliced up into thin agate-like pieces. Some so thin they could be laminated & used as stained-glass window dressings. Micrometers thick. I was surprised that none were done up like Da Vinci’s Microcosmic Man (you know, the guy standing spread-eagled in the globe). I probably would have bought one to bring home & hang in the sliding glass door. They were all sepia-tones of brown & black, & seeing the sun shining through them was actually quite ascetically pleasing. Soothing to the eye.

I didn’t feel morbid – trying to write about it now makes me feel morbid, & I’ll probably cut ‘n paste most of this letter into my livejournal page just so I won’t feel it necessary to make myself rehash it, but it will still be there. There was an odor, sort of a dry, static odor to the place, with an underlying meatiness – kind of like cheap beef jerky. I read somewhere that the plastination process was a boon to anatomists & medical professionals because it was odor-free, & I really wanted to correct them. But probably no one really noticed the scent – it was most noticeable around the ones under the strongest, most direct lighting. And it was so quiet, even with the school groups going through – it was like no one wanted to giggle or laugh or even make a loud “Ewww!” noise. Everyone (except for those most fascinated by penii) was respectful & the whole place seemed subdued. I wouldn’t want to be a night watchman in there. It’s bad enough that I’ve worked too many graveyard shifts to be able to sleep well alone in the house at night.

Gods, my fingers & hands absolutely ached to touch them, tho. I kept reaching out & getting sooo close, just wanting to brush them, just to run a fingertip over the ridge of a brow, or to follow the line of a muscle strand… On the 3rd floor was more of the same. The point of the whole exhibit was the differences between healthy tissue & that of diseased tissue, w/an emphasis on ‘lifestyle’ diseases – smoker’s lungs, clogged arteries, that kind of thing. Cancerous tissue, at least seen in slices, wasn’t very hideous. It looked like big black patches w/out veins or anything to differentiate the inner texture of the organ. I saw the difference between a healthy brain & one w/Alzheimer’s – in Alzheimer’s, the two cortexes actually begin to separate, & the brain itself loses mass. I was horrified & kept probing my head subconsciously. Another scary-looking thing was a hydrocephalic brain – a ‘bubble’ of excess fluid had built up inside the brain, & left a perfectly smooth inner cavity, like someone had molded the outside of the brain around a balloon or something, like maybe to make a costume headpiece or something. It was creepy.

The horse & rider were on the 3rd floor, at the very end of the exhibit. Saving the best for last. I could hardly look directly at it – it’s something I’ve anticipated seeing for so long, & I was actually standing there in front of it. I couldn’t have imagined the immenseness of it. The horse they used was enormous, almost a draft-sized horse & it was in a rearing position, & then the rider added another 4 or 5 feet to top it off. We were looking for support beams & wires – it’s not only an incredible piece of art & mortuary skill, but one of engineering as well. I felt bad for the horse – they took one of the hooves off it, leaving the tip of its toe-bone exposed to the world, & I believe that was a cruel thing to do, even if the horse was dead. I imagined it to feel like a finger w/the nail ripped off, leaving the bed open to any stray breeze. I wanted to pick the hoof up & stick it back where it belonged. Rob was far more entertained by the flock of seagulls that had taken over the ledge outside – they were looking in like, “Man, if we could get to that dead horse in there, we’d eat for a week.” The ledge outside was also littered in chicken bones, which, as I deduced, probably came from the KFC across the street. Cannibalistic birds – gotta love it. Mmm, feather-lickin’ good.

So I donated myself to BodyWorlds, & left a comment in the book. Bought souvenirs – pins & postcards, the catalog, the DVD… I am such a sucker, but I figured since they wouldn’t let me take pictures I can scan all the images into my computer one way or another. I walked out of there starving – I wanted some liver & onions, and some barbecued ribs. Rob promised me Tony Roma’s when we get the opportunity. (Hee hee) So anyway, we headed towards Wilshire Blvd., after much debate & discussion. Found a McDonald’s, which was so California-esque. Veggie Burgers, a Walnut & Apple Salad… & piped-in techno-muzak. The streets in L. A. are narrow compared to here, & going up Wilshire, w/all the little side-alleys, I could understand why Rob was nervous about driving. But it’s not like we were in Compton or Oakland or anything – I mean, it was mostly business high-rises & boutiques. I would have loved to explore a little more – gone in & gawked at some of the ritzy shops & antique places. It kind of cracked me up, too – we saw so many freakin’ Starbucks. Not one 7-11, but at least 20 or 30 Starbucks. It was also kind of amusing because a lot of regular retail stores are on the ground floor of these skyscrapers, like a Big 5 Sporting Goods store. Out here, Big 5 stands alone or is part of a Wal-Mart strip mall… in downtown L. A.; it’s on the bottom floor of some bank building.

We culminated our journey at the La Brea Tar Pits. It was sad. The last time I was there, I was like, 4 or 5. The place had only been open a year or so. I remember it as being much, much larger, like at least a half-a-day’s worth of exploration. I remember these huge ponds of tar, w/statue dinosaur dioramas carrying out imagined mini-dramas of prehistoric life. When we got there, it’s this tiny little museum tucked away in downtown L. A.... You’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it, or if you didn’t happen to glance over & see, from the street, the one remaining diorama of the trapped mammoth & its family. It’s not even really at a major intersection or anything. So we climbed the hill – crows were everywhere. The center of the museum has a beautiful arboretum, filled w/banana palms & flowering vines. There’s a koi pond w/some turtles along w/the fish. From the top, tho, it looks like the pit they put the velociraptors in in ‘Jurassic Park’, complete w/the funky grid work in the ceiling above it. At least at La Brea you can touch stuff – and touch I did. I touched everything I could possibly get my hands on, & took pictures of everything else. It’s laid out in a big circle. There are fewer fossils than murals & wall-displays, but it was still good in that nostalgic way. I just remember everything being bigger. Way bigger. Except the actual mammoth skeleton – that is still enormous. It dwarfs modern elephants. And people. When you come around the corner, there’s a low wall, mammoth knees… ribs…. the bottom curve of the tusks… and a low wall coming down from the ceiling. You have to get up past the curve to see the whole mammoth. And they’ve got it standing on a pedestal to boot – probably about 2’ up. The thing is just big. There’s a bison there, too – I didn’t realize that bison & camels had ridged backbones, which explains the humps. The bison was almost as big as the mammoth and in a way more impressive because there are more animals in modern times to compare the size to. A rodeo bull’s shoulders would come up to that bison’s chin, and rodeo bulls, especially the Brahma breed, aren’t little. There were lions & saber-toothed cats & short-faced bears (oh my!). And a wall holding a portion (about 400) of the dire wolf skulls they had found so far. Rob & I came to the conclusion that dire wolves were stupid (way more stupid than prehistoric coyotes - I mean, coyotes are still around - where are all the dire wolves?) (Well, obviously in the tar pits, but you get my drift) – something like 1600 (that they’ve dug up so far) had perished in the tar pits, along w/about 2000 saber-toothed cats. Saber-toothed cats weren’t that bright, either. Whenever I think about dire wolves, I always imagine this huge hulking beast of a wolf, big as a tiger or something, but from the skulls they probably weren’t any bigger than a German shepherd or Dobermann.

We hit the gift shop, run by a really nice Spaniard named Trino – I popped a complimentary comment card into the comment card box for him. He was just a nice guy – so nice that I was convinced he was gay, but apparently he’s just a beautiful & pleasant girly-man. He didn’t care one bit that we touched all the merchandise & played w/everything we could reach, especially because I bought stuff there, too. He was talking to a couple about a display at the Art Museum – some guy has taken fimo clay to heights never believed possible – there’s a sculpture of a horse done completely out of fimo – it looks like one of those Chinese lacquer-ware statues w/all the different cells of color… goes for a mere $15,000. I guess it’s almost life-sized. Absolutely gorgeous, but my brain goes, “$15,000?! For fimo?! Deadhead Play-Doh?! No fuckin’ way!!!”

From there, we went out into the park itself. Due to the rain, you couldn’t really tell that any of the pits were tar pits (which probably led to more than a few dire wolf deaths way back when), and the lake was really the only active pit – there was one gas spout that would bubble up occasionally. The other pits are small – you can’t even smell any real fresh-asphalt smell. And the active excavation pit is closed for the Winter – it’s only open in the Summer anymore due to funding, & also because the tar is easier to dig when it’s warm. I wouldn’t want to work there in the middle of July or August – that’s seriously got to suck. There was one pit I remember – when I was little, you could go down this ramp that overlooked an active excavation site, & on the walls they had bas-relief dinosaur skeletons in plaster, so it was like you were going into a ‘real’ field dig pit. But now, it’s just concrete walls & it’s all gated off. By climbing up the gate a little, we could see the shoulder blade of something sticking up out of the tar. It seemed deeper when I was little. Everything seemed bigger, more, deeper, smellier, more amazing & impressive when I was 5. I guess that extra 2’3 ½” in height & 25 years in between made a difference in my perspectives…

We took Wilshire up to Santa Monica Blvd., got on the 405 & somehow made it back to our rental-car place, & Rob endured another harrowing ride on the airport shuttle. Did the express check-in, stripped for the security people & almost lost one of the BodyWorlds pins in the x-ray machine… & we sat in the food court at LAX for 4 hrs. Our feet hurt & I had blisters, anyway, so we weren’t seriously complaining about just sitting there. The flight back was surprisingly empty. I love to fly at night – the pilot stayed fairly low, so we never really lost sight of the ground. All those lights. Rob kept asking if we were still in L. A. & I was telling him we were probably over San Bernardino by that time… then a strip of pitchy blackness & the lights of Las Vegas appeared. The pilot seemed to feel it necessary to show us the Stratosphere up close ‘n personal, & took a very roundabout trip to the airport – we passed the South end of the Strip, downtown, our house… and when he landed the plane, it was way down at the Mandalay Bay. It’s like, no wonder the taxi process was so long – he landed about 10 miles from the damned terminal!

That was my day in L. A. I miss it – when we were driving down Santa Monica Blvd., I had my window open so I could feel the ocean air & get that salty smell in my nose. It was great because there’d been rain earlier in the day, so it was really humid. I never appreciated just how verdant & lush the landscaping is in So. Cal. till now. Birds of paradise, palms (real, healthy palms, not these over-landscaped p.o.s. we’ve got out here), pepper trees, grass. Flowery viney things. Love it. LAX is so different now – no Hare Krishnas, no homeless, but a lot more plants & landscaping. It’s also not spread open anymore – it’s just different. Narrower. The food court at the Southwest terminal had a Gordon Biersch… and a Starbucks!

Rob’s not real happy about my body donation – says he won’t come visit me. Oh well. I’m not doing it for him, anyway. A part of me expects some goon squad to show up & make sure I’m still young when I die (heh heh) so that I’ll leave a good-looking corpse. Ann never made it out… had to work. Bleh!
I don’t know – it felt good to leave the city for awhile, get out of town, walk in the open air, see a new place, and breathe different air. But it was good to get home again, too. Especially for my poor ol’ feet. I’m not used to all the walking & standing that we did. I took a butt-load of potassium when we got home to stave off any Charlie horses that might accost me in the night. Getting up to go to work yesterday morning was sheer Hel. Rob’s had to work these past 2 nights – yesterday I was so skittish – it’s hard to fall asleep & there’s all these outside noises that seem to surround me when I’m by myself. Rob got on my ass about leaving a loaded shotgun under the bed, but if it makes me feel more secure, I’ll probably do it again & not let him know about it. I don’t know how I’ll feel tonight – I’m tired, but I don’t have to work & I’m off from the dayjob till Monday. We ran all of our random errands today – even fed the snakes, & tomorrow’s Veteran’s Day, so neither one of us have a damned thing to do tomorrow – we could just sleep. But I’ll probably just go to bed when I start nodding off at the computer.

BodyWorlds2

Jul. 4th, 2004 05:47 pm
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For anyone who's interested, here's the link to BodyWorlds. Rob's already completely grossed out, & will probably just be dropping me off at the exhibit & trying to entertain himself elsewhere. Maybe I'll get really lucky & Ann will be able to meet me. She's got plenty of advance warning - I probably won't even take another vacation til mid-October. (I'm hoping to get Sundays off regularly, mainly because Samhain is on a Sunday, & the Ren Fair is over a weekend. Either way, I'll probably get stuck working New Year's Eve & New Year's Eve eve, which is kind of cool because it's double time & a half for holidays, & your birthday & New Year's Day both count as holidays! This is even supposing the Excal is still open & I'm still working there...)

I'd really like to have my worldly shell turned into an amazing piece of artwork once I'm no longer in it. But, not knowing when I'm going to die, it's hard to make definitive plans. I mean, will BW still even be open then? At least I have choices. Rob will at least see my designs through if I'm still w/him when I die. My biggest wish is to die somewhere publicly so people know I'm dead, not rotting in an apartment somewhere anonymously, not noticed til the smell gets to the neighbors. I mean, once you reach a certain level of decomposition, you're really no good to anything except blowflies. And a big part of me is wondering if I can still be used for organ donation prior to turning myself over to BW? Because really, that's what I should do.

I dunno if my livejournal problem is just mine, or if it's been fixed...
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I finally get it. Death is caused by procreative sex, therefore having procreative sex is in effect committing murder of some sort - if you meant to do it, it's 1st Degree because it's premeditated. If the rubber broke, I guess it steps down to manslaughter.
It's like the bumper sticker: Life - it's sexually transmitted & always fatal.

I've got another one of those:
100% of all divorces began w/marriage.

I am so ready for some time off. Bradley proved once again that he's an ass & denied my xtra off request for Sunday. Anytime there's 1000 arrivals on his night to work, the xtra off's get a roundhouse denial. 1000 arrivals aint nothing. I'd call in sick but it's my vacation Friday, so I'd get a verbal for being the 3rd sick call in 90 days & a warning of some sort for calling in on my vacation Friday. I don't just need time off, I need a new freakin' job.
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Wellll, my bestest friend Ann sent me a DVD from rotten.com - an autopsy video, featuring Ken Noguchi from the LA County Coroner's Office. I watched it this morning. It was interesting, but in a way sort of anticlimatic.
The video was very subdued, almost as tho it wasn't made for others to view it at all, sort of like it was a video record of the autopsy. I expected splashy informational clips to be inserted here & there, like a Discovery Special or something. Maybe an interview w/Dr. Noguchi, or one of his assistants (aka dieners). I got the impression from how he was talking that one of the assistants actually worked in a forensics lab, because he'd ask "So, do you do this procedure for forensic analysis?" & the assistant would yea or nay it.
The good doctor was not gentle or elegant with how he cut into the woman's body (which had little blurs over her face, nipples & pubes) - he tugged & pulled at her w/the scalpels & knives. There were ripping sounds as he yanked the viscera away from the organs. I expected something a little more... uh, I don't know how to explain it. Elegant, maybe? I guess because they were performing an autopsy, it seemed as tho the quickness & efficiency was out of place, as though they weren't being careful enough or observational enough. The lighting in the room was bad, kind of dim & off-color. Like they were in a basement boiler room.
So he took each major organ out, trying to determine cause of death. She was an older, overweight woman but I was surprised at how little actual fatty tissue she had throughout her midsection. Doctors lead you to believe that if you're overweight your heart & liver are coated in a cocoon of choking fatty deposits. Her heart was very clean. Her lungs looked like velvet when cut open, smooth, pink & slightly mottled on the outside. Her right lung had evidence of pneumonia, which Dr. Noguchi determined as the cause of death.
Her liver... well, when they pulled her liver out, which actually looked better than any liver I've seen, including calves' livers in the grocery store. And my stomach took notice & rolled over w/a loud growl. My mouth started watering. I've got a whopper of a craving for liver & onions. I was kind of shocked at my stomach, asking it "What the hell is wrong with you, anyway!"
They left her stomach & intestines completely alone, didn't cut any samples off, nothing, just pulled them out & away from the inside of her body cavity so they could take out her spine & spinal cord. They cut her brain all to pieces, which for someone who's used to seeing whole or nearly whole brains in jars of fixative was strange. Because of the length of time since she'd been dead, her brain had already gotten very soft & once they started dissecting it, it sort of fell apart into a nearly-unrecognizable mass. A very sad thing to happen to a brain. I felt bad for the brain.
Another odd thing - there were no hanging scales. Dr. Noguchi would hold an organ in his hand, like her heart & say, "I'd say about 350 grams. A little enlarged." He passed her heart to one of the dieners & the diener hefted it & agreed. This method of measurement was used on the brain, the lungs, the liver - just the doctor estimating weight by the feel. I'd have liked to see them weigh the organs afterward to show how on the doctor was w/his guesses. It seemed cavalier & innacurate as all fuck-all. But, I remember watching the Cajun Cook, Sherriff Wilson, do the same thing w/salt - he'd poor salt in his hand, say "about 1/2 tsp." & then pour it into a measuring spoon & it would be almost exactly what he measured out.
And then it was pretty much all over - the body was sewed up, washed & put back into the body bag. The only thing that really got to me was seeing the featureless underside of her scalp folded over her face so they could access her skull & the brain cradled inside.

Maggots

Dec. 15th, 2003 07:27 pm
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Saw a photo on Rotten.com today, entitled "Wurms Man"... Of course, 'twas a rotting corpse, bloated & blackened, swollen beyond all recognition. Within his eye sockets & across his face, the cleaning crew was busily at work - maggots. Under all the decaying flesh, tho, the purity of white bone showed through. Clean, stark, the foundation of the flesh.

I used to have a problem w/maggots - couldn't even stand to look at them. Thinking about them made my flesh crawl. I do still think that if I ever had a major wound that started to develop gangrene & looked under the bandage to see medically-grown fly larvae crawling around on my body, I'd most likely go mad.
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Oh, I am just racking up bad Karma... for the past 2 nites I've been wishing Jeff kung fu night audit skills. I am so very, very screwed karmically speaking. I know it's completely evil, but I'm just compelled. I feel that Jeff just deserves those k.f.n.a.s.
Went to see "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tonight." It was ok. It's hard to believe that Sean Connery is 70! He still moves pretty good for an ol' guy. I only personally know 2 old people - my inlaws. Anton is 67 or 65 I think... Margaret is going to be 61. Anton probly won't see 70, Margaret's like the cockroaches or rats - nothing can kill her off. (not that we've tried or anything... :::evil laughter:::) I'm planning to off myself when I turn 65. Hopefully I'll still be able to hold the gun or read the darn pill-bottle. Maybe I'll give auto-erotic asphyxiation a whirl. I'm donating my corpse to 1 of 2 organizations - either BodyWorlds Museum or the Body Farm. Rob wants to be turned into a diamond, which is actually an improvement on his earlier wishes. I can totally envision me laying on a self-skin rug, flayed for the world to see for a nominal fee. I'm probably too fat to plasticize tho. There really isn't much info on donation requirements. I know for anatomy school donation you can't have a high percentage of body fat because the embalming process doesn't penetrate the body tissues deeply enough to keep you from decomposing, which makes your bod pretty useless for budding doctors. I bet if I donated myself to the Body Farm I'd be a great source of adipocere. (Had to break down & look it up to see if I was using it right... according to Websters I'm already a great source of adiposity.)
I'm currently IM'ing w/someone from Turkey. He just wants me to cyber, I know, so I'm stubbornly engaging in small talk to make him go away. (And I have mail involving College Girls Nude on Camera - I don't even like college girls, why would I wanna see 'em nekkid? Barely Legal my arse - she's gotta be 50 if she's a day. Enlarge my penis? What penis? When did I get a penis? I have an astral penis, can I enlarge that?) Anyone bothering to read this probably thinks I'm a freak. O well. It's my live journal entry, read at own risk. They need to add an "evil" setting to the current mood option. As in, "I'm feeling evil today"
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So, I unintentionally made my husband shed a few tears last night... Next Monday I go to get this wisdom tooth pulled. I feel a little weird about it because it's the first time anything that normally belongs in my body is being taken out. Will I miss my tooth? Will my tooth miss me? But Rob is bothered because one of the potential side effects is, well, death. For some unknown reason, as we're taking me to work last night, we started talking about the procedure, and next thing I know he's got tears rolling down his cheeks & he tells me "Don't leave me!" I was touched.
I guess because most of my family died when I was still young & impressionable, instead of looking upon death as the great enemy, to me it seemed like something that just happened. Whenever a pet died, we went out later that week, sometimes the next day, sometimes the same day, and got a new one. My relatives, to me, seemed equally replaceable. Funerals for us weren't long drawn out ordeals, but more like an afternoon for the grown-ups to get together, drink & talk shit about the deceased. One time I was stuck babysitting & inadvertently ended up bringing the kid I was babysitting to an aunt's funeral. She started playing w/my nieces & younger cousins in the graveyard, and I don't think she was too traumatized by the whole thing. Her parents were like, "Well, did the event bother you?" & she was like, "No, but I've got a bunch of new friends now!" I've also got some very backwoods relatives living in Tennessee who still bury their own kinfolk out behind the stills & the outhouses... They sit up with their dead folk & sometimes their dead folk sit up... (I ran about 5 miles that night - had to walk back home, too.)
One of my penpals recently suggested to me that my fascination w/dead people is because I'm really afraid of death, but I have to disagree. If anything, I'm intensely curious. I want to know. Death is the great Unknowable. We can surmise, we can theorize, we can hope, we can wonder, we can fear... but until we die, we won't know for certain what actually happens. I mean, the mechanics of death are pretty straight-forward and can be quite gooshy. (I couldn't eat any fatty-looking meat after I found out about adipose tissue) But it's knowable. It's what happens to the soul that is the Mystery. I'm not afraid of death - I've died 4 times, but I didn't get very far (obviously!) I also had my bouts of attempted suicide when I was an alcoholic angst-filled teenager, but all that ever happened was the standard out-of-body, hovering over yourself watching the resuscitation events unfold. How boring. I want to know what's past that... beyond the Veil, what's behind door #3... the big score.
My only problem with death is this: I don't want to come back all unknowing again. I've learned so much so quickly in this lifetime that I don't want to forget it all over again, have to start from the beginning. Fresh new brain cells w/no foreknowledge of what's gonna happen. I don't care if the river of Nepenthe makes me forget what happens when you die, but I don't want to forget the rest of the stuff - like reincarnation itself, the notion that there may be more than one god, that everything in the Universe is a reflection of the Divine Source... I don't want to have to relearn all the social skills, the ancient stories, the personal mythology, I don't want to forget all the people I know. I don't want to forget my coyote magic or my snakeskin soul. I don't want to forget that music is made to be played with the heart and dancing uses more than your feet.

A word from Rumi...

Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance, in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you're perfectly free.

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