Coffee Shop Folks, Law, People, Suzanne

Susanne Decides to Get Some Legal Advice

In the over 20 years I’ve known her, Suzanne has routinely done the most improbable, astonishing things — without herself even beginning to think how astonishing they are.

For instance, she was out in Boston one Sunday afternoon, driving through the Harvard area, when she saw the famous law school’s sign. Not at all knowing how prestigious the school was (Suzanne doesn’t concern herself with such trivia as which universities are notably good universities), she decided on the spot she needed legal advice about something.

So, she parked her car, marched into the offices of Harvard Law School, searched around for someone to talk to. Finally, she found a man alone in his office, working on that Sunday afternoon. She actually managed to get the man to give her free legal advice.

After she thanked him for it, she got curious. “So what do you do here, sir?”

He told her his position.

A day or two later, she called me up to tell me how she was doing. She mentioned the incident in passing, told me the man’s name, and then asked, “So Paul, is a dean, like, the head guy, the guy who runs things? I think that might be what a dean is, but I’m not sure.”

Later I googled the name she’d given me. Sure enough. Suzanne had gotten free legal advice from the dean of Harvard Law School — arguably the best law school in America.

Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, Magic, People, Suzanne

That Loud Pounding Sound You Hear Near Midnight​

Suzanne loves to hike moonlit mountain trails, and her favorite hour for it is midnight.

To give her credit, there are few things so magical as the mountains on a moonlit night. The trees, the bushes, the rocks, and even the occasional animals, all look ghostly, enchanted.

Add to that, the charm of sometimes being able to come within a stone’s throw of wild animals, such as a herd of mule or whitetail deer. Mule deer — at 30 or 40 feet away in the night — are so well camouflaged they can barely be seen at that distance, even in moonlight. And once they spot you, they don’t flee, as they might during the day, but stealthily move off, as silently as they can.

Large, silently moving, dimly seen shapes have a short of eeriness to them. An eeriness that appeals to Suzanne like rain puddles to a child. She loves how the moon enchants the mountains.

Continue reading “That Loud Pounding Sound You Hear Near Midnight​”

Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, People, Suzanne

Suzanne and I Decide to Get Naked

(About a 3 minute read)

“What’s that?”, I asked, pointing at a large billboard we were passing on the highway.

“I couldn’t read it in time.” Suzanne replied from behind the wheel.

“It said something about a hot spring called ‘The Well’. Ever hear of it?”

“Nope.”

“Take the next exit South.”

Continue reading “Suzanne and I Decide to Get Naked”

Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, People, Suzanne

Suzanne Causes a Stir

(About a 2 minute read)

Suzanne doesn’t always make the wisest life decisions. She’s a bit too impulsive for that. Sometimes she gets herself into a bit of trouble. But she is remarkably resilient and unusually resourceful. She always bounces back.

In fact, her ability to bounce back from adversity is one of the things I most admire about her. I know of very few other people who do it as well or as consistently as Suzanne.

Sometimes I’m able to help her bounce back.

One day, she and I were siting in our favorite coffee shop when she suddenly announced, “I’m going to start keeping track”.

Continue reading “Suzanne Causes a Stir”

Allies, Coffee Shop Folks, Coffee Shop Stories, People, Suzanne

My Introduction to Suzanne

(About a 4 minute read)

The story begins more than 25 years ago when I owned and operated a tiny little business in Illinois employing 13 people. To make this brief, I won’t go into the details of how one day I found myself thumbing through Victoria’s Secrets catalogs on a business mission to find flannel pajama prices — but it happened that one day I found myself doing just that.

I was flipping through the pages quite rapidly when I felt stopped in my tracks. What had I just seen? I thumbed back two or three pages. There, posed on a bed, was a young model in her underwear looking straight at the camera.

Continue reading “My Introduction to Suzanne”

Abuse, Art, Coffee Shop Stories, Don, Human Nature, Humor, Ideologies, Knowledge, Late Night Thoughts, Life, Love, Lovers, People, Play, Quotes, Relationships, Religion, Sarah, Science, Suzanne, Village Idiots

Late Night Thoughts: Richard Feynman, Flirting, Contrary People, Big Ideas, and More

(About a 13 minute read)

To oppress a mother is to oppress a democracy, for it is mothers who teach the value of democracy to their children.

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Some years ago, if I heard a pounding on my door around 11:30 on a full moon night, I could reliably guess it was Suzanne come by to demand that we go for a midnight hike in the mountains.   I always went for — after all — how often do you get to risk becoming a mountain lion’s next meal?  Besides, the mountains are magic at night.

Suzanne was, and still is, highly intelligent, creative, beautiful, and resilient.  At the time we were taking midnight hikes, however, she was also largely dysfunctional due to an untreated bipolar disorder.  That kept me from developing a genuine emotional intimacy with her, for it’s difficult to feel genuinely intimate with someone who — for whatever reason — is wrapped up in themselves.  Nevertheless, we did pretty good as casual friends.

One crisp night, we set out for a trail head, but when we got there, a noisy group of about seven or eight people were setting off down the trail, so we decided to drive on.  That eventually landed us on a dirt road high up in the mountains.  Since it was about two or three in the morning, and no one was likely to be traveling that narrow road but us, we parked the car in the middle of the road, put the top down, and threw a blanket over us in order to stargaze.

The moon soon enough went down behind the mountains.  The sky blazed with what seemed like five thousand stars, and Suzanne and I fell into silence.  After 45 minutes or an hour, Suzanne spoke.  “Why do I have to be in love with Jeff?”

“I don’t know.  Have you figured that out?”

“Not yet.  I just don’t understand why I get along with you better than I get along him, but I’m in love with him.”  After a moment, she went on,  “I love you too, of course; just not in the same way.”

Jeff was Suzanne’s boyfriend.  Like Suzanne, he was highly intelligent.  He was also abusive.  Whenever we were together, Suzanne would sooner or later start talking about him.   Usually, she spoke of his most recent outrages.

I knew, by that time in my life, that criticizing someone’s partner — even someone’s abusive partner — would most likely achieve nothing more than cause them to rally to the defense of their partner, so I carefully avoided giving Suzanne any hint of how profoundly I loathed Jeff for his abuse of her.   “That does seem strange”, I said as evenly as I could, “I mean that you get along with me better than him.”

“I do love him.”  She turned to look at me.

“Is he good for you?” I replied, looking at her and trying my hardest not to make my question sound like a challenge.  I thought that, if only she would ask that question, sincerely ask that question….

“But I love him!”  She protested.  “That’s got to count for something, right?”  She’d done exactly what I feared: Taken my question for a challenge, rather than genuinely think about whether he was any good for her.

Suzanne was twenty years younger than me.  She had yet to learn the difference between genuinely loving someone and merely being emotionally dependent on them.   Nor was there anyway I could have explained those things to her that night.  Although she never would have expressed it this way,  on some level, Suzanne believed the world was fair and just, and that Jeff had to sooner or later come around if for no other reason than she loved him so much.

In time, Suzanne came to her senses and dumped Jeff.

◊◊◊

Today, May 11, is the anniversary of Richard Feynman’s birth.  He was born 1918 and died 1988.  Probably, I think, not only one of the greatest physicists of the 20th Century, but also one of wisest people of that century.

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.  — Feynman

◊◊◊

I think Sarah was fifteen when I met her.  She and I were both regular customers at the coffee shop and we often enough sat together at the sidewalk tables.  Sarah was one of a small handful of girls who would keep me company even when I was not sitting with any handsome boys their own age.  She also struck me as generally cheerful, optimistic, and sensible.  The sort of level-headed, but occasionally mischievous, young person who gives you hope for the future.

One sunny morning,  about a year after Sarah and I first met,  I was sitting by myself when I happened to glance down the street towards the local high school.  About two blocks away, a woman was walking towards the shop, and though I couldn’t make out her face at that distance, there was something in the way she walked that made me recognize it was Sarah.  I think it might also have been the style of skirt she wore, for Sarah favored long, flowing skirts with a certain kind of print — almost paisley.

As I had guessed, it indeed turned out to be her.

When she arrived, she came straight to my table, and we were soon discussing her jewelry for no other reason than to pass the time of day.   “I have the worse luck, Paul.  Every piece I own has lost its partner.  This ring — see the naked man?   This silver ring had a naked woman that went with it.  That way you could divide the ring into two pieces, and give one piece to your lover.   But I lost the woman.  An ex of mine wouldn’t give it back when we broke up.”

“And you see the man in the moon in my earring? I used to have another earring just like it, but I somewhere lost it.”  She grinned.  “Now I have the moon in one ear, and a dragon in the other.”  She turned her head one way and then the other to show me.

We went on like that for an hour or two it seemed: Simply enjoying the sunny, but cool weather.  Eventually, she had to go back to school, for though her high school had an open campus policy, she was of course expected to attend classes if they were not study halls.

A few weeks later, Sarah and I were again at the coffee shop together.  At some point in our conversation, she decided to draw a dragon for me.  She explained as she was drawing it, that she had practiced and practiced drawing the dragon until she could almost draw it blindfolded.

“Ah! Well executed!  I know you like dragons.”  I remembered her earring.

“Oh yes!  Did I tell you about my dragon lamp?  I have a lamp that a candle fits inside.  When you burn the candle, it casts dragon shadows on the walls.  I love it! I use it as a night light.”

It all came together for me one evening a few months after that.  Sarah and I were once again at the coffee shop, but this time it was towards dusk.  Another man had joined us  — a guy about my age, which was twenty-five or so years older than Sarah.   He and Sarah were flirting with each other, which rather more bored me than anything else.  I became absorbed in watching the sunset.

Presently, the man left to go home, or go to his job, I don’t quite recall which now.  Sarah soon turned to me, “I love flirting with older men”, she said.  “I know I won’t let it go anywhere.  The age difference makes that impossible.  But you can learn so much!  Should I be ashamed of myself, Paul?”

I don’t remember now exactly what I said to her, but she responded by almost pouting — a very unusual expression for her — and then playfully suggesting that I was a public killjoy for refusing to flirt with people, especially with her.  That so surprised me that I felt I needed to make amends!  Hence, within a few days, I composed a simple poem just for Sarah.

She’s a woman in the grace of sixteen summers
With skirts flowing in the morning sun
And she speaks of the silver man ringed naked
A dancer who dances alone
For her jewels have all lost their partners
But the moon still laughs in one ear
And she sleeps in the shadow of dragons
With a heart uncorrupted by fear

◊◊◊

Physics isn’t the most important thing. Love is.  ― Richard Feynman

◊◊◊

Some “religious” people are just contrary.  They profess to be Hindus or Christians, Muslims or Jews, Buddhists or Taoists, but their real religion is simply to find fault with other people.

God, enlightenment, the Tao are to them little more than concepts that they imagine give them ultimate permission to condemn folks, to dehumanize them.  “I speak for God”, they imply.  “I speak for the Tao.”  Such strange people: Always hiding behind some pillar like “God”, peeking out only to snarl!

But such people are not confined to religions.

No, you find them in the lunatic fringes of every political and social movement, every ideology — including the better ones.  What sort of person makes it their life to condemn others?  What sort of person lives for it?

It is part of the comedy of our species that we often give them the time of day.

◊◊◊

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.  ― Richard Feynman

◊◊◊

To me, the ultimate goal in life is neither meaning nor happiness, but to be as true to yourself as you can be in a socially and environmentally responsible way.   The way I see it, if you shoot for that, then you’ll find what meaning and happiness there is for you in life, like icing on the cake.  But I don’t see how living falsely can bring about either meaning or happiness.  Of course, all I really know is that it works for me.

◊◊◊

I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell.   ― Richard Feynman

◊◊◊

Top 40 Lovers

I listen to the radio play those old two songs:
“How I love him more than life itself” and “How she did me wrong”.

And I think it’s hard to be a simple lover
If the goal’s a cosmic truth.

And I think it’s hard to be a simple friend
If we’re lawyers in the end.

◊◊◊

Humans are natural born cartographers.  We make maps of the world, which we call “beliefs”.   It’s what our species does.

Sometimes, our maps are more or less accurate.  And sometimes, they are fantasy maps, like the ones we made as children to show where a pirate’s treasure lay buried in our backyard.

The accuracy of our maps often matters less to us than the fact they are ours.  Because, for most of us, our maps are something we think of as us.

◊◊◊

I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb.  ― Richard Feynman

◊◊◊

“Hullo?”

“Don, this is Paul.  We’re rich!”

“We’re what?”

“Rich, Don, we’re richer than our wildest dreams!”

“Are you kidding me?  What happened?  Did you win the lottery?”

“Lottery?  You can’t depend on lotteries, Don.  This is so much better than a lottery.  This is Big!  Huge!  I’ve had an idea, Don.  An idea!”

“Paul, I have always believed you are capable of having good ideas.  Which is why I am still patiently waiting after all these years for you to actually have one.  But if this is like that last ‘good idea’…”.

“Don’t worry, Don, this one can’t miss.  It’s huge!  What is the number one complaint people have about foods, Don?  The number one complaint?”

“Paul, where is this leading?”

“Don, I’ve been researching this, and nine times out of ten, when people complain about food, it’s because they don’t like the taste.  It’s a scientific fact, Don.  Nine times out of ten!”

“So what?”

“Six words, Don, six words:  Spray-cans filled with liquid nitrogen!  Zap that awful taste right out of your mouth!  Instantly!  Never worry about a bad tasting meal again!

“Don we are going to get rich here!  We are going to get so rich!  I’ve already called some architects, asked for designs on our office building.  Are you excited, Don?

“Don?  Damnit, Don!  You’re a going to have to get a new phone.  Yours keeps dying on me!”

Horniness, Lust, Sexuality, Sexualization, Suzanne

Those Sexy Nudists Exposed! (But Safe For Most Work Environments)

If you have never spent much time at nudist resorts, it might seem counter-intuitive to you that people are sexiest when at least partly clothed, but it is true to at least my own experience.

I should have hundreds of memories of naked women from the times I’ve been to resorts.  And, there is both a way in which I do — and a way in which I don’t.

To illustrate: A young friend of mine is a former Victoria’s Secret’s model.  Over the years, she and I have been to nudist resorts somewhere between 20 and 40 times.  Out of all the times seeing her nude, I can only recall one image of her I associate with sexy, even despite her physical beauty.

That image comes from a late afternoon when I began wondering why I had so often been nude with Suzanne, but didn’t lump the memories I had of her nude in with my fondest memories of sexy women.  So I made a conscious effort to thing of her as sexy.  And it worked.  Even today, years later, if I reminiscence for awhile on the sexy looking women I’ve known, the image of her that afternoon is likely to pop up sooner or later.

I have at least three or four other images like that of women I’ve been to nudist resorts with.  Images I easily recall when I’m thinking of sexy women I’ve seen.  But in contrast to those images — perhaps less than half a dozen in all — I have seemingly endless memories of women walking down the street in tight shorts, short skirts, or flouncy dresses.

I imagine like most folks, I could spend a good hour or two — and probably have — just pulling up memories of sexy people I’ve seen in different venues — some from decades ago.  But so few are from nudist resorts.  I cannot be absolutely certain — memory is difficult to assess — but my guess is I have for the most part stored my nudist memories separately from my, “Wow! Look at her!” memories.

Now why is that?

Near as I can figure both from my own experience, and from talking with others about it,  nudists do not regard nudity as primarily a sexual experience, except perhaps when they are still novices at nudism.  Instead, nudity seems to be more an experience of openness, tolerance, and acceptance, than of sexuality.

That doesn’t mean the sexual feelings are entirely absent.  But those feelings are far from dominant. They are typically secondary — or perhaps even further down the ladder than secondary.  That is, in both my own experience, and — so far as I can tell — in the experience of many other nudists, you’re not oblivious to sex, but you usually become strangely insensitive to it.

I do not wish to give the impression I am against mixing sex with nudism.  For all I know, it would be mind-blowing to have sex at a nudist resort.  Nudity is a very emotionally intimate experience.  I can imagine adding to that physical intimacy.  And I know couples who do; I have yet to hear any of them complain.

Yet, so far as I can see, sex is not intrinsic to nudism.  I can see making it sexy.  But I don’t see it as necessarily sexy.  Indeed, it seems seeing someone on the street in tight pants is most often sexier than seeing them nude at a resort.

If that’s the case, why do you suppose that is?

Environment, Ideologies, Late Night Thoughts, Meaning, Nature, Quality of Life, Religion, Spirituality, Suzanne

Instincts We Never Knew Before Were So Powerful

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

~Henry David Thoreau, 1854

It’s a minor mystery why we sometimes wake up with something on our mind that we haven’t thought about in a long while. This morning, I woke up to an especially vivid recollection of a small herd of mule deer that Suzanne and I spotted on a midnight hike along a wilderness trail some years ago.   The deer moved soundlessly, like ghosts, in the bright moonlight.

It is moments like that one during which I feel most alive.

There are people whose religion is nature.  Thoreau was most likely one of those people.  So, too, are quite a few of the folks I’ve met here in the Springs.

Colorado Springs is, in some ways, an undesirable place to live.   Local politics is dominated by ideologues whose knee-jerk opposition to taxes recently translated into the City cutting back on police and fire fighters, and even shutting off every other street light, in order to save money.  Yet, the Springs is superbly located.  The Colorado wilderness begins less than a 30 minute drive from the City’s downtown.  If you are among those people who can find a ground or center for themselves in nature, the Springs is a good place to live.

I don’t know why it is, but churches have never affected me like a wilderness hike, an afternoon spent soaking in a warm mountain spring, the play of sunlight on lake waves, or the call of coyotes to the red sun.

It’s up in the mountains the risk of hypothermia is a more serious demand on our attention than all the world’s talk of salvation; it’s there the wind blowing through the ponderosa can roar like a river that carries our thoughts away; and it’s there when a lion looks at us, we feel the rise of primeval instincts we never knew before were so powerful.

It seems to me the “essential facts of life” are neither ideological, nor intellectual, but are instead existential.  And, perhaps, we are most often closest to those essential facts when we are “in the woods” or “up in the mountains”, so to speak.