Searching for Peace (In the mall)

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“Hey, Biff,” said the fox. “Hope you had a great vacation in Veradero, hope you had a great time recovering from bronchitis and I hope you had a great time slacking off and watching the first season of Sons of Anarchy instead of writing, but it’s time to get back to your search for peace.”

“I dunno, fox,” I said. “I think I’ve searched just about everywhere and couldn’t find it. Maybe peace doesn’t really exist. Maybe it’s just a dream that never was and never will be.”

“You giving up on searching for peace, Biff?” said the fox.

“I feel like a hamster on a wheel to nowhere,” I said. “It’s like peace is right in front of me shining like a golden sunflower seed that I can almost touch…and then I read the news or see a picture of people killing each other for no good reason than to just kill someone…and that golden sunflower seed turns into a bullet pointed right between my eyes.”

“You’ve never been a quitter, Biff,” said the fox. “Why start now. And besides, you’ll have to admit it’s been fun…and interesting.”

“Not always so much fun,” I said. “You shrunk me into a tiny Biff and surrounded me with about a billion dust mites. I felt very fragile, fox.”

“It was a learning experience, Biff,” said the fox.

“I’ll never see my living room carpet the same again,” I said. “But, yeah, it was interesting.”

“That’s better, Biff,” said the fox. “So where are we off to now?”

“How about the mall?” I said.

“Biff,” said the fox, “foxes don’t go to the mall. We only consume what we eat.”

“We’ll go there to observe,” I said. “Watch people drool over things they can’t afford and then watch their eyes fill with angst when they buy those things anyway…on their credit cards.”

“That’s just plain sad, Biff,” said the fox. “And how does that get us any closer to peace?”

“Pieces in the puzzle, fox, pieces in the puzzle,” I said.

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And there we were, in the mall, surrounded by store fronts and the bustle of people looking for that perfect thing that will make their lives suddenly meaningful. A brand new red shirt that doesn’t go with anything else in the wardrobe but wouldn’t I look so good in that red shirt? Gotta have it.

A silver pendant with a huge fake emerald gleaming out from the silver. Something to go with the perfect blouse I know I’m going to find today. And no one will ever know it’s not a real emerald.

“Biff,” said the fox,” this is really sad. What are all these people doing here?”

“Searching for the dream, fox,” I said. “Searching for something they’ll never find here, but they’ll keep coming back, looking, hoping, being fooled again and again.”

“Kind of like your search for peace, Biff?” said the fox.

“I hope not, fox,” I said. “But maybe there’s something here…I don’t know what…but I’m running out of ideas.” I thought about this for a few hours as an unhappy horde of shoppers herded around us, their eyes darting from one display window to another. Searching. I was beginning to feel a little better about my own search. “I know a few people who never go into malls,” I said.

“They search somewhere else?” said the fox.

“No,” I said. “They don’t search…they find.”

“How can you find without searching?” said the fox.

“By knowing what you really want,” I said. “And then going to the place where you know you’ll find it.”

“So where do they go?” said the fox.

“Places like farmer’s markets, independent craft and clothing stores,” I said. “They make a lot of their own stuff…like clothing, food, booze.”

“They make dandelion wine like you do, Biff?” said the fox.

“Some of them do,” I said. “But the main thing is…they don’t let anyone else tell them what they need. They make those decisions on their own.”

“So how do they do that?” said the fox.

“I think it has something to do with knowing themselves,” I said.

“Like accepting themselves?” said the fox. “Like you said before…just accepting yourself with all the good and all the bad?”

“That…and more,” I said. “Accepting themselves and accepting the things they need to do to make everything in their lives acceptable. They’re aware of the world around them and where and who they are in that world.”

“Sounds like a lot of work,” said the fox.

“It is, fox,” I said. “It’s a lot of work, but they get something precious out of it.”

“What’s that?” said the fox.

“Empowerment, fox,” I said. “And all the feelings that come with that…like satisfaction, happiness, a sense of feeling complete instead of always feeling half-finished. The sense of personal worth that comes with setting your own standards instead of letting some corporate asshole set standards that will always keep you wanting and needing more.”

“So, Biff,” said the fox. “Who are these people?”

“They’re people with a low profile, fox,” I said. “They tend to live under the radar, away from the craziness the rest of us call normal life. Let’s visit a few of them. Another day.”

“Not today?” said the fox.

“I’d like to take a nice cold shower and wash away the feeling of mall before doing that,” I said.

“With you on that, Biff,” said the fox.

To Be Continued (but not in the mall)

“I hear you lost a tooth in Havana,” said the fox.

“Bit into piece of cast iron melba toast,” I said. “Bye bye tooth.”

“Let’s see it, Biff,” said the fox.

“Nope,” I said. “It’s embarrassing. I look like an escapee from the Bowery.”

“C’mon, Biff,” said the fox. “Big smile. Give us a big smile.”

“I’m not smiling, fox,” I said.

“Aww…” said the fox.

“I’m not smiling,” I said.

“Tell you what, Biff,” said the fox. “I’ll smile if you smile.”

“You gotta be kidding.”

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How We Can Learn From Rocks


I was in the hall at work today when I saw Ric and Vanessa standing around talking. So, I figured, this would be a good time to sneak up behind Ric and give him rabbit ears. Yep, it’s Friday afternoon and Ric needs rabbit ears. And I have the fingers for it. And lots of practice. So I began my stealth approach, ducking behind walls of open space here and corners of open space there, getting closer and closer to the unsuspecting Ric, who seemed to be talking tres interesting things today because Vanessa wasn’t walking away, falling asleep or yawning.

Now, the problem with open space is …well…it’s open. You can see right through it and no matter how hard I ducked here and there all Ric had to do was turn his head slightly to the side and my rabbit ear run would be kaput. And, of course, he turned his head. So I looked down the hall and then behind me, and down the other hall and in front of me, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. But the game was up. So I joined their conversation and…well…hey, find out what Ric was saying that was so interesting that Vanessa wasn’t falling asleep.

But my arrival seemed to have changed the topic.

Ric put his fist out towards me, you know, the old let’s-punch-each-other’s-fist-just-for-the-hell-of-it-in-public bonding ritual. So I punched Ric’s fist. He said, “No, put your had under mine.” I thought…chocolate. Yum. I put my hand under his fist and waited for it to open and drop chocolate in my hand. But what dropped into my hand wasn’t chocolate. It wasn’t anything to eat; in fact, it was even harder than the melba toast that took a tooth out of my head in Cuba a few weeks ago.

It was a rock.

A metamorphic rock, the kind that forms when a bunch of different rocks get together deep in the earth under pressure and heat and a touching exchange of chemicals…and they become one. Something the people of the world should try someday.

But there I was with a metamorphic rock in my hand wondering, “Wtf?” Ric, all smiley-faced like this J said it was all mine, that he’d just chipped it from a statue in front the building we worked in and he wanted me to have it. But he wanted a five thousand word essay on his desk by the end of the day.

Yeah, Ric…I’ll get on that right away.

But then I thought, why not? I used to collect rocks when I was a kid. I even had a prospector’s pick. One summer in Winnipeg, I reduced a five foot high chunk of sandstone down to fossils embedded inside it. I hammered away at that boulder night and day for a whole summer. I traded the fossils for comic books and other shit, keeping just a few of my favorites. That wasn’t the only place I used my prospector’s pick…ever hear of a place called the Grand Canyon? It used to be a mountain.

So I figured, write something about this rock that was so unexpected gifted to me. OK…so what can I say about this rock? Well, for starters, it doesn’t talk much. It’s a great listener. Something else the people of the world could learn from metamorphic rocks. Wouldn’t it be great to talk to someone who wasn’t texting every five minutes?

Another thing about this rock…it doesn’t move much. It’s a very still rock, like it’s in a state of eternal meditation as it contemplates the miracle of its oneness with itself. I like that in a rock. I think of it as a sign of great character. This rock has great character. And oneness. I wish the people of he world could sit quietly and meditate on oneness. Maybe we wouldn’t spend so much time killing each other. Hating each other. Separating from each other. After all, at one point in the timeline of making this thing called the people of the world…we were one. How did we stray so far from that?

This rock doesn’t complain about anything. It just sits there, happy with its state of being. Accepting its rockness. Happy to be a rock and everything a rock is. So, I asked the rock, “Are you a happy rock?”

And the rock stood up and said, “Yeah, Biff, I’m a happy rock. As are all the rocks of the world. Until some little prick like you comes around and chips us away to get our fossils. Hope you enjoyed the comics.”

And the rock sat down on my desk…all rock and no anti-biff-with-a-prospector-pick attitude.

And I guess that’s it. What do each one of us do?

To be as happy as the rocks.

BTW: Hey rock…the comics were great. But I’ve always felt a tinge of regret for taking that big fossil-laden rock out of the world. Kissed a girl on top of that one night. And then reduced it to fossils. Go figure.