Okay, I thought of a few, more coarse, words to use in the title instead of "bummer," but, really, do you need to have those in your head? You've probably said them enough already and with force because - well - who the deuce likes rejection? In addition, upon receiving the "u" word (unfortunately) from that editor last week, you may have resorted to kicking things like Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation when he got the one year subscription to the Jelly Club from his boss instead of a fat bonus check. We've all kicked and cursed. And then we settle down and feel sorry for ourselves and boo-hoo-hoo.
Snap out of it. You are in such good company it's ridiculous. I mean, think of all the editors who looked at Harry Potter, stated that it's "rubbish," and gave it a toss. And the author is now a gazillionaire for crying out loud. In Potter's defense I will say it took a long time to get it all between two covers, but you know what that's like, too, don't you? Your hard spent hours are right up there with the works of Rowling and Tolkien, right? Sort of?
And then there are those who advise you to go and read about all the famous Jack London and Stephen King types who were rejected sooo many times. This will make you rejoice at all of your own rejections? I don't think so. Trouble is, you would never have heard of them if they hadn't subsequently found a daring publisher and gone on to become more famous than Julius Caesar. About as rich, too. Sorry, but those people's advice stinks like old coleslaw decaying behind the neighborhood deli.
And, in addition to that rejection you got yesterday, along came an email from a writing buddy with whom you have a sort of pasted-on-smile rivalry. She tells you she's just sold her eighteenth essay to The Onion, a woman's magazine, her local public broadcasting station - whatever. And it's killing you. It's always so much more gratifying to be huddled among the wretched and rejected than it is to be the dynamic duo of essay queen and her lowly minion. It brings out the martyred sigh in you as she's holding forth. And deep down you know you're her equal or, about once a year, her superior.
So, what do you do with that horrible, rancid, rejection you just got? First, you go to the mirror and ask yourself if you really, really want to be a writer. Go. Now. Do it. If the answer is "no," then skedaddle down to your local job bank at ten tomorrow, fill out the forms, prattle on to the guy at the desk and have a nice life. But, if the answer is "yes," here's the plan. Do your cussing, and kicking and boo-hooing and then go in with a vengeance and write something with that emotion. Do it with a full head of steam and fifth of scotch if you have to, but do it.
That's my word on rejection. The scotch thing is up to you. For using cool words like bummer, deuce, and skedaddle instead of various four letter word bombs, I humbly accept your wide-eyed appreciation. And if you ever become as famous as London, King or Rowling, I'll accept your homage on that front, too. I deserve that much.
My tirade is over and now I have to go and look in the mirror - for the fifth time this month. I may need a good talking to. There's an excellent chance I'll get more rejections through the inbox any minute now. In spite of them Captain Morgan and I will soldier on. We live in hope, right?
Sacred Words Between Online Friends
By Casey Bottono
'Never was there a time when I did not exist,
nor you, nor all these kings;
nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.'
Sri Krishna to Arjuna in the
Bhagavad Gita *1 , Chapter Two, verse 18
Conventional wisdom dictates that the domain of the sacred lies in the East: in India with gurus, kirtans and ashrams. Personally, I learned far more about the sacred much closer to home, from a friend I never met in 'real life'.
Our friendship began on the 25th of February, 2006 - George Harrison's 63rd birthday. I was then, and remain, an avid fan of his music and spiritual ideals. At that time I had been a member of the official George Harrison forum for a little more than two months. Although I felt like part of the family, I didn't yet feel part of the furniture. That would come later.
My friendship with Chris began in the simplest of ways - you wouldn't think the act of defining banoffee pie: 'banana and toffee, I think', would spark a friendship which would last the remainder of her life, and certainly the rest of mine.
Although we hadn't really spoken at that point, I immediately felt we were in tune with one another. From my alias on the forum, SimplyShady74 (my favourite George Harrison song at the time, and the year of its release) I introduced myself to her as Shady Wilbury, initially preferring to protect my privacy. I later revealed my real name, around the same time as she showed me a picture of herself and her family.
That closeness evolved to a certain level of protectiveness as I soon discovered that she was undergoing treatment for cancer, or as she put it, that she 'shared George's illness.' I'd later learn that she shared his courage and spiritual perspective, also - gifts which she passed on to me, in a way.
The majority of our conversations took place on her specific forum thread, where she had invited fellow forum members to share George's lyrics and quotes, 'because here it's like a garden where I can breath George's peace.' *2 It was plain to see that I was not alone in the affection I felt for her, and whilst she and I communicated regularly through the forum thread, we used MSN Messenger as another form of daily communication. There she used the alias Kamala Harrison, which baffled me at first. She patiently explained that 'Kamala' referred to a main character in Herman Hesse's novel Siddhartha.
When we weren't discussing George's music, life and spiritual ideals, our conversations took on a far more serious tone. I was particularly interested in the Bhagavad Gita, having read a lot about it when reading about George's beliefs, but not read the book itself.
Chris told me once that she considered the Bhagavad Gita 'her book'. Whenever she had a question, she said, she would go to the Gita, and the answer would be there. Those words would prove invaluable to me at a later date.
When I eventually read the Bhagavad Gita for myself, opting for the Juan Mascaró translation on the advice of another friend, I finally understood. I could see for myself how Chris' life had been enriched by the words attributed to Krishna in that little holy book.
Considering my friendship with Chris in a spiritual sense, I can see that our relationship mirrored that of Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita - charioteer and soldier 'together' on the battlefield. I am honoured to say that I cannot remember a single occasion when Chris informed me that she didn't want to fight - her motto of sorts, borrowed from the last song on George's last album, was 'I won't accept defeat.' *3
That being said, I was not Krishna-like in my attitude to what was happening - although I obviously could not share my fears with her, I felt them just the same. On one occasion, she informed me that she had 'checkings' coming up. I swallowed my concern to be present for her, insofar as I could from England. She told me she was scared, and did not want to 'start again with everything.' I could say nothing which was of real comfort, so I simply offered that I was praying for her.
Paramahansa Yogananda wrote that there are two types of guru, the siksha guru and the diksha guru. The siksha guru is the teacher responsible for introducing the possibility of God, and the diksha guru is a teacher from whom the disciple takes spiritual initiation. I have thought of Chris as a siksha guru for some time.
Our bond seemed even stronger when Chris faced challenges which limited her ability to post. Jonathan (another forum member in Tennessee) kept me updated via private messages, which I grew to dread. However, I quickly developed a ritual of sorts for dealing with them. I would put on a piece of music which was not one of George's songs, and then open the message to absorb the news.
There was a period of time in November 2006 where the forum community thought everything would be OK - as she wrote back then that the 'cancer had been defeated.' Unfortunately, that was not to be. During the period of silence that followed, I became rather concerned, so was hardly surprised to hear news from Jonathan at the beginning of January 2007.
The news he imparted was not particularly hopeful, although he assured me that there would be a prayer vigil in a few days' time. Jonathan had mobilised some devotees at the local Hare Krishna temple who would lead the service. I didn't speak Sanskrit, but I had to hope that the fervent nature of my prayers would suffice.
As well as the prayers, there was of course a George Harrison soundtrack, carefully selected by Jonathan. Songs ranged from 'My Sweet Lord', to the 2002 release 'Rising Sun', which was Chris' other favourite George track.
The vigil took place on 7th January, 2007. Just over two weeks later, Chris and I had what was to be our last conversation. The unusual thing about it was that she initiated it - I had been used to being the first to say hello, and the last person to type the combination of letters which produced the image of the waving cat when we said goodbye.
She wasted no time in informing me that her health was not good - 'I'm not fine, I had to move to another city to get stronger treatment', and informed me of another development which was devastating, combined with what I would later learn. She asked me to tell the other members of the forum, which I didn't feel able to do, so I delegated the task to Jonathan.
Although she said very little about how she felt, I could tell by that point that she was tired. I barely said anything, simply struggling to take in the suddenness and gravity of the apparent situation. She said there would be one procedure, and another 'maybe next year'. It may have been what she said, it could have been the way I read it, but I knew with chilling certainty that she would not live to see the next year.
I duly passed the 'official' update on to Jonathan whilst speaking to Chris, to ensure that I got all of the vital information across. It's difficult to function when what was once possible becomes certain, but I felt it was my duty to her to ensure that I did exactly as she'd requested, as far as I could.
There was another period of silence, during which the day of the scheduled procedure came and went. I heard nothing until the middle of March, when Jonathan sent a private message saying that she'd had the procedure, it had gone well, but (as I had feared from the delay in hearing anything) there had been a setback. I noted with relief that she was still on the planet, as that had been my greatest fear.
Another couple of weeks passed, during which there was no news. Then, on Tuesday 3rd April 2007, a friend of Chris' in Mexico posted. He had heard from her brother that Chris was 'at the final step of her illness', and it would not be long. I read the news and responded in the only way I knew how, randomly selecting a George track by closing my eyes and clicking the mouse.
To my surprise, the song that played was 'Here Comes the Sun'. I could only hope, as George sang, that it would now be all right. Whilst the song played, I paced the space between the living room doorway and the bookshelf against the far wall - ten paces there, and ten back. I could neither write nor speak, such was the sense of shock at finally hearing the news I had dreaded for so long.
I attempted to drink a cup of tea- near impossible, given that my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I managed to drink as much as I dared, then thought it would be good to try to get some sleep. Of course, that didn't happen - I spent most of that night thinking about what I had read, and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, which I had read was the correct custom to observe around the dying Hindu. Although I wasn't sure of the extent of her practice, I knew that Chris had an altar with various statues of Hindu deities in the family home, and chanting the mantra felt like the only thing I could do under the circumstances.
The next morning I awoke to a public message from Jonathan: 'Now that the news has come through about dear Chris, please join me in playing 'My Sweet Lord'', to show her that we are with her as she makes her way Home. Upon reading that, I panicked, as the way in which it had been conveyed made me wonder whether she had passed away overnight. A quick glance informed me that (thankfully?) she had not. I played every version of the song in my possession, to demonstrate that I really was with her as far as I could be, every step of the way.
The fifth of April brought the news that Chris only had a few days left. I was more saddened than shocked by that point - I knew what would happen, I had known for some time. It was just a matter of when. The week before I had been learning to play 'Stand By Me' on guitar, and now the song served as a powerful symbol of how quickly circumstances can change. To this day, I freeze if I hear it in a public place - it just takes me right back. I practiced the song diligently that day, cursing my every mistake. 'She deserves to hear it played properly once before she goes!', if she could at all. I wasn't sure, but I had to believe that on some level our relationship would continue, even after she had left her body.
Three days later, it was Easter Sunday. Our friend from Mexico had posted once again, saying that 'the doctors said Chris only has a few days left'. I carried that news with me to a local beach, and found a strange comfort in skimming stones. One skipped seven times, so fast I could only just count them - I've skimmed further since, but never bettered those seven bounces.
I checked the forum again when I returned home, keenly aware - as I'd noted in a journal only a few days before - that 'this is not Sky News, there are no round-the-clock updates.' Not that I would have wanted them - I just needed to know on some level that she was at peace.
The significance of the day was not lost on me at that point, but it was not until the next morning, Easter Monday, that the news broke. Chris had indeed left her body at 3:30pm Argentina time, on the 8th of April 2007. I didn't consciously know what to do when I read the news, but I turned to George, as I always had, still do, and always will. The song 'All Things Must Pass' was perfect for that moment, perfect for honouring Chris' journey Home. I winced a little at certain lines, but only because they spoke of exactly how I felt at the time.
The ultimate reassurance of continued relationship came two days after I heard of Chris' passing, as I sat and played a few songs on guitar. One of the other elements of our friendship had been my helping her get back into playing guitar, which she had done when she was younger but given up when her son was born. I prepared chord sheets for her for specific George Harrison songs, and she shared these with her son who was also learning to play.
The last thing I prepared for her was a sheet of tablature (a specific form of guitar notation) for the guitar solo to 'My Sweet Lord'. On that particular day, I couldn't think of anything more appropriate to play, so I looped that song and 'Wish You Were Here'.
The first time I played 'My Sweet Lord' that day, I reached the point where the guitar solo comes in, and because this performance was strictly rhythm guitar, I was surprised by what happened next. I hit the first chord, and played fervently with my eyes closed. I then heard the first notes of the solo, as though from somewhere else entirely. I've had other experiences since, but that was the first time I learned that the kind of affection Chris and I shared cannot be limited by her physical absence.
Just like the relationship between guru and disciple, Krishna and Arjuna, God, whatever you may call Him/Her/It and man... that kind of love goes on. I was blessed to experience it, and now it is my joy to share. It was only in walking 'with' her through the darkness that I learned to appreciate how great a guiding light she was.
*1: Bhaktivedanta, A.C. Swami Prabhupada Bhagavad Gita As It Is asitis.com/2/12.html [Accessed 5th November 2013]
*2: 'Chris Harrison', forum correspondence, 2006 [unavailable at the time of writing]
*3: Harrison, G. 'Brainwashed', Brainwashed, Umlaut Corporation, 2002.
WritingRaw's cult classic:
The Wolf by the Ears
By Mattie Lennon
It has been said that the first duty of a gentleman is to keep out of the hands of the police. Up to the time of writing I have carried out my gentlemanly duties, in that respect, every day of my life, with one exception. That was Tuesday 11th November 1969 when I was the victim of a wrongful arrest and unlawful detention.
At 11:15 A.M. and I was feeding our one and only bonham. A car bearing the roof-sign of our National Guardians of the Peace stopped at the gate of our humble abode at Kylebeg. It was driven by a 38 year old farmer's son, Paddy Browne, from Kenmare. He shared a surname with the one-time Earls of Kenmare but a Protestant farmer who had rented a house to him had once told me that there wasn't much evidence of any nobility connection. The observer was a 44-year-old son-of-the-soil from Kilmorgan, Co. Sligo. His Name was Bill Tighe. (Up to that moment I had little dealings with either officer apart from meeting them during Census-taking. I knew that they referred to me as "the Poet", which was understandable since I was in the habit of linking, even the grimmest situation to a poetic allusion.) Despite their agricultural background they had no compunction about taking me away from my pig-feeding, when they asked me to accompany them to Blessington Station.
If my neighbours hadn't known me as well as they did no doubt they would have been; "Wondering if the man had done a great or little thing".
Didn't the poet say:
To every Irishman on earth,
Arrest comes soon or late.
While Browne reversed the Squad-car down our narrow lane Tighe revealed to me that I had stolen an unspecified quantity of ham on Friday 31st October. Looking at his profile from the back seat I recalled a comment made by one of my neighbours. Whatever about the grammatical correctness of the observation I was now tempted to accede to its accuracy; he had once described Tighe as being; "As thick as the butt-end of a horse's bollocks, that never saw anything only shite."
Once in the station another Garda had something to say. This was 31 year old, Willie Nash, from Gurtnacrehy, Co. Limerick. (You may not have heard of Gurtnacrehy; the only time the word crops up is in the names of Greyhounds.) Nash was so well turned out that he was like a male mannequin compared to his more bucolic colleagues. When he first came to Blessington in January 1962 he was a useful man on the football field and sported a crew-cut. Now he was opting for a (slightly belated) Beatle look. He imparted the additional information that I had maliciously burned a rick of hay, the property of Dan Cullen (who because of a lumber peculiarity, the clinical term for which is Lordisis was known as "the Hollow-backed Lad) on Saturday 27th September.
Nash's body language (as he replaced a nail-file in his tunic pocket) proclaimed his lack of self-esteem and the fact that he was well aware of my innocence. His rhetorical question: "Would it surprise you to know that you were seen lighting it?" was slightly off the mark (not to mention off the wall).
I knew, through my own sources, that a quantity of ham had been reported stolen. (I wasn't told if it was a quarter or a half pound) but I doubted the authenticity of the crime. As the interrogation progressed I became more convinced that the case of the purloined bacon should enter the annals along with The Easter Bunny, the Unicorn and a few pre-election promises. I also knew that, even if the ham had been stolen Tighe had established, on Saturday 03rd November, that I couldn't have stolen it.
Despite being the victim of the dirtiest trick ever played on me, being spoken to like an imbecile, humiliated, embarrassed and treated like a criminal I refused to confess to two fictitious crimes. (It's at times like this the words of Ethel Rosenberg spring to mind; "I am innocent… to forsake this truth is to pay too high a price"). The Sergeant, looking less than prepossessing and more than his thirty-seven years, gave the OK to have me locked in a cell. Maurice O 'Sullivan, ex-Mental Nurse (known as a "keeper" at the time), from Slaheny, Co. Kerry, was very concise; his only comment to me was: "I have enough evidence here to charge you". (It was at this stage that I asked myself if I was, in fact, at the mercy of a lunatic, bearing in mind that my father always made a distinction between a madman and what he called a "bad-inclined madman." Perhaps his past was the reason for the brevity:
For he to whom a watcher's doom
Is given as his task
Must set a lock upon his lips
Did the experience in his previous life prompt him to believe that I was the sort, so much in awe of authority, who would confess to anything? Although it was fifteen years since he surrendered his badge in Saint Finan's Hospital, Killarney, the "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest Syndrome" obtained; He still thought that he could do what he liked? ("…for in a madhouse there exists no law").
I thought of William Blackstone who said: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer." I soon reminded myself that Mr. Blackstone didn't spend four years working in a Kerry asylum.)
When I was told, "You'll get out when you tell us the truth" I took on board my neighbour's opinion of the speaker. And the farmer's boots and sly smile I saw as further evidence that Tighe was not a member of Mensa, would not appreciate Tennyson, and so I thought it would be futile to quote:
This truth within thy mind rehearse,
That in a boundless universe
Is boundless better, boundless worse.
My father always said that I would "hear the grass growing" and now I became acutely aware of my better -than- average auricular ability. Sound- proofing had not been a consideration in the design of the cell-door and I could hear every word spoken in the day-room. Industrial-relations matters, within the Gardai, were touched on lightly before a turn in the conversation that was very interesting and informative; but that is a story for another day. Suffice, for now, to say that there was paraphrasing of the words of Thomas Jefferson; "We have the wolf by the ears and we can neither hold him nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale and self- preservation on the other"
When again I knocked with a hope of being released Browne uncovered the spyhole. His eye, viewed through the small rectangle of light, didn't look friendly. I was sitting on a wooden bench with some sort of a "tic" on it. Hey! Didn't I read on the Leinster Leader about a Ballinastockan man being fined ten pounds for pissing on a mattress in the cell of Blessington Garda station? (Of course it wasn't worded so in the "Leader".)
"Are you going to tell us about this fire?" Garda Browne enquired.
Now secure in the knowledge that they knew I wasn't guilty of anything I didn't protest my innocence. I simply asked; "Are you going to let me out?" Browne didn't reply. He opened the cell door and allowed me into the day room. As he lit a Goldflake butt with a paper spill from the open fire he again accused me of arson. As I looked at his well-worn shoes and archaic wristwatch I thought of his economy-consciousness which his former Sergeant, Frank Reynolds, had told me about. My comment about the coldness of the cell and my plea to be left in the Day-room fell on deaf, Kenmare, ears.
As he dragged on the ignited butt I was sternly told to "get back in."
I would compile a letter to the Minister for Justice. But that could wait. This was as good a time as any to make a start on a parody. The air of "The Oul Alarm Clock" would do fine:
"I was told we're going to charge you
With the burning of a rick,
By Nash and Tighe and Sullivan,
An' Paddy Browne the prick."
The cell door opened. Garda Willie Nash told me, "We're lettin' ye out but we'll be takin' ye in agin."
He wasn't a man of his word; I haven't seen the inside of that cell since.
As I glanced back at the well-groomed man from Gurtnacrehy why did Hemingway's words spring to mind, "In police stations cynicism was worn like a mask, like armour to shield whatever vulnerabilities remained."
I had to walk the five miles back to Kylebeg and tell my parents, "Mossie 'Sullivan is trying to frame me for two fictitious crimes."
Click on the cover to order from Outskirts
Tales of the Tribe: A Book of Mythopoeia
by Marvin Welborn
Society creates the stories it tells itself: factual, specious, apocryphal, or dishonest; by any rendition, according to Wallace Stevens, it will still be a fiction. Myth wears the clothes of its culture, will always be a social fact, and those who would eschew these basic facets of humanity, will prove themselves the poorer. Truths are to be found in Myths, even if Metaphorical. This is a book of Mythopoesis - Mythoi, by verse. Visit Marvin Welborn's website: Tink's Chapblog