Pondering the Pavement

April 28, 2014

Keeping the Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — cfilius @ 5:15 pm


Every neighborhood has a fixture, a mascot of sorts who is always there, come rain or shine. It seems as if you can almost set your watch by their presence. It comes to a point when you’re convinced, even illogically, that they have been there from the initial creation. And, in all probability, they will still be presiding over it all long after you’re part of the sediment on which you are currently meandering. Silly, yes, but we know bursts of absurdity have flashed through our own minds on occasions past, so what’s one more?

ImageMy childhood neighborhood staple was Mrs. Farley. She was a short, stocky woman who was a sauntering bundle of sweet quirkiness. Her hair, always pulled back in a bun, served as a battleground for streaks of brown and gray. It was always a coin toss as to which would dominate the playing field upon her head on any given day. Like many in the neighborhood, she had her own little vegetable garden in her tree lined backyard, laundry draped over a clothesline stretched between two maples, and her front and back porches were a second home to a multitude of flower boxes overrun by gangs of geraniums. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except, during the humid summer months, she would sit on her small back porch serenading the neighborhood with her accordion. Hand to God.

I spent many a night growing up watching fireflies dancing to Mrs. Farley’s rendition of ‘Edelweiss’. I often entertained myself by giving Mrs. Farley a thick accent so she’d sound like Mrs. Olson from the Folger’s coffee commercials. It amused me… Admittedly, it doesn’t take a very shiny object to entertain me at any given time.

I remember her vividly and fondly. To this day, I cannot hear an accordion, or even watch The Sound of Music, without thinking of Mrs. Farley channeling her inner Lawrence Welk. Since Mrs. Farley left us in the mid-70’s, I’ve lived in seven states and more mostly urban dwellings than I care to list for fear of overloading my already fragile GPS. My surroundings—my life—has changed time and time again. It happens, you know?

Life goes on as it’s prone to do. Neighborhoods change, and so do their not-so-eternal staples and landmarks, the things we think will be there forever. And, of course, so do we. Changes, temporary and permanent, are inevitable. It happens to us all, whether we like it or not. Take a long hard look at yourself right now. Are you the same person on the same levels as you were five years ago? Five weeks ago? In some cases even five days ago? Big and small, change is with us, flaunting itself like an egocentric peacock. “Look at me! Look at me!” But, you know what? The most earth-shattering change is the kind that sneaks up on us. The change that roosts high upon a limb, well above our inflating and/or deflating ego, cooing softly like a dove. Then, out of the blue and when you least expect it, it drops on you – SPLAT! It drops right on you and your classic ’66 Mustang that you’ve been painstakingly detailing for the past four-and-a-half hours! It can make you realize that some of the things you thought were important were really no more than distracting filler. And, at the same time, you grasp that a few things you took for granted were a bit more significant than you once believed. Well, imagine that.

Have you noticed how much positive PR there is out there regarding hindsight? We all crave it, need it, covet it even. But we rarely have it until… well, you know. Once that reality hits, you suddenly become double jointed as you enthusiastically kick yourself in the butt over and over and over again. The battle cry of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” begins playing in our head like an annoying tune (the theme to the old ‘Light Bright’ commercials, for example… you’re humming it to yourself, aren’t you? BWHAHAHAHAHA!).

There’s a fixture in my Long Beach neighborhood who lives about two blocks from me. I see him virtually every single time I’m strolling through the vicinity. He’s a larger man, bald with a large walrus-type mustache. His olive skin shows a lot of wear-and-tear yet his deep, dark eyes seem to sparkle. He sits in his wheelchair on the sidewalk outside of his apartment building either chatting with neighbors and anyone passing by or watching his portable DVD player. There is a small American flag hanging on the back of his chair proudly displayed next to a US Marine’s decal. An ever present cigarette can be found lodged between his pudgy index and middle finger of either hand, giving the impression of being an accomplished ambidextrous smoker. No matter how warm and sunny it may be he is always bundled up in a heavy coat and knit hat. His obviously swollen feet are encased in heavy wool slippers. He speaks every time I pass him. His voice is strong, not intimidating, and genuinely friendly. When he asks, “How are you?” I honestly believe he is actually interested in whatever answer I provide. Our relationship is not a complex one by any means. It never strays from the usual generic pleasantries regarding the always topical weather, which is wedged between the verbal parentheses of “hello” and “see you later”. We haven’t even taken the time to introduce ourselves to one another. But, like clockwork, he is always there, come rain or shine. You can set your watch by him…if you’re wearing one, that is.

Taco's MemorialThat relationship altered greatly last week. I was walking my usual route when I came to his spot on the sidewalk. Instead of seeing him in his ever-present chair, I saw a large makeshift memorial. There were several candles—eleven in fact—and more than a few flowers. Attached to the gate was a large piece of cardboard covered in a wide array of handwritten sentiments. In the lower right hand corner of the cardboard was a United States Marine’s decal. There was one photo displayed and, low and behold, it was him. I was stunned. His name, I discovered, was Richard. But nearly everyone referred to him as Taco. There were notes from a wide range of individuals. Clearly all very close friends who are deeply affected by the loss of their brother, their fellow journeyman, their buddy. The shaky, unstable printing of a young child was clearly visible, too, as was their own personal sense of loss. Taco’s American flag, which was always present on the back of his chair, now looked down over it all from the upper left hand corner of the memorial.

I was shocked at how this man’s death hit me. As I said, I didn’t really know him. But he was familiar, he was a part of my surroundings, and suddenly he just wasn’t. His exit was another all-too-present reminder of not only the brevity of our physical life, but to make a point to be a bit more interactive with our aforementioned surroundings. People, places, any combination thereof.

Change can knock your socks off. But, maybe that’s just a sign that it’s time to go barefoot for a while. A reminder to reconnect with your surroundings minus the filler, the distractions, the sentiment we often displace. Common sense dictates that if you lessen the load you can pick up the speed. The question is, what do you keep, what do you discard?

Ella, the newest member on my roster of Spirit Guides, offered a look into this quandary. She channeled the following with her usual iron-fisted finesse…

“Let It Go! Let It Go! Let. It. GO!

“Let go of what, you ask? Does it matter? What holds you down? What darkens your spirit, your soul, your heart? What heaviness burdens you down and impedes your speed, adding worthless weight when more substantial supplies are requisite? A car has four wheels so do you carry eight on your trip? You do not require the bare minimum but, instead, learn to bear the minimal. Discard what does not serve, carry what you need. Then be willing to remove along the way while embracing the replacements as they come forth.

“Nothing stays the same forever. Your life path changes. Your attitudes and beliefs change, your friends and loves—they all change. What makes you believe that you are immune to change as well? Do you actually think you are above all of that? Flexibility, my child, flexibility. Flow as the river or come to rest in the debris of the dry riverbed. Nourish to flourish, starve to stay put. The choice is, of course, always yours.”

– ♥ Ella

 We have been given this life so, my friends, make a point to actually LIVE IT! Don’t just meander through its halls. Check each door as you go along, rattling the knobs of the ones currently locked, and then move on to the next. Different doors, different rooms, different surroundings…one change after another. Explore them. Some changes will work for you and some will not. That’s just how it goes. But you won’t know until you face them.

Allow the changes—no matter what they may be—to fuel, not hinder, you. A new job or someone’s death are both changes. Initially, one seems a lot better than the other, right? But how do these changes truly affect you in the long haul? A new job brings with it great promise and potential. No complaints there! The loss of another brings sadness and sorrow. But, what about the change that follows the initial reaction? A loss can, in time, help you better appreciate what you’ve had, what you currently have and what you may have with others down the road. You see, there is even change within change. As Ella stated, “Nothing stays the same forever.” And, believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

So, Taco, I thank you for this change in my life at this moment. I thank you for the reminder to step back, regroup, rethink and reevaluate. If anyone reading this has an epiphany or two because of it, then make a point to thank Taco, too. You see? He may be physically gone but he is still speaking to anyone who passes by his way.

And, if you run into Mrs. Farley, be sure to give her a “one more time!” from me.


Copyright © 2014, Charles A. Filius

April 13, 2014

One Ella of a Ride

Filed under: Uncategorized — cfilius @ 3:43 am
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I take great pride in being the problem child under the rolling eyes of my disembodied caretakers. Robert, my Master Guide, has told me in no uncertain terms that I have driven him to drink. I’m convinced my Guides gather together in a pub on the Other Side and do nothing but complain about me. “Whose idea was it to start talking to him?” one will say. “It was so much quieter then!”

Yea, well, guess what? I wonder the same thing. Whose idea WAS it to start talking to me? I’m convinced They only connect with me for Their own entertainment. I am just a way for Them to pass the immeasurable hours.

I was first introduced to Robert within my second attempt at automatic writing. Laura, my Protector Guide, came in a few weeks later, as did Martin, my Life Guide. From time to time, I would sense something new in the air and a new Spirit Guide would join my already growing firm. The number finally rounded off at a nice even ten a few years back. I honestly figured that was the maximum room occupancy for this fiasco of a ride. Ten is a nice even, comfy little number. It’s quite popular in rating scales and it’s the core of the whole metric system. All was set in stone and I was snug as a bug in a rug with my Spiritual Entourage.

Or so I thought.

A few weeks ago I felt “it” again. I was vacuuming of all things (domestic God that I am) when I stopped in mid-glide. Turning off the vacuum, I looked around the room and I knew I was not alone. And this wasn’t one of my well-established peeps. Not by a long shot. I felt someone was circling me, slowly, assessing me with every step. “All right, who’s there?” I’m known for my originality don’cha know? My radar darted about my surroundings as I felt eyes of some sort focused on me. “Yesssss?”

I felt someone say, “Listen.”

My initial thought was a female energy. This would be refreshing for Laura and Pamela as they make up only twenty percent of my male dominated support team. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and heard “Ella.” Short, sweet and to the matter-of-fact-point. My eyes popped open and the other eyes were no longer upon me. I sensed nothing else so I brought the vacuum back to life with a quick click of a switch. “Ella, huh?” I thought. “I’ll take a side order of proof with that.” The roar of the vacuum drowned out Their collective ‘sigh’.

Like the menu at the Soup Plantation, the events didn’t matter and it faded from my mind shortly afterwards. I just chalked it up to the aftermath of too much swirling dust clouds emitted from my Red Devil. Late one night, while being slapped around by one of my dominant bouts of insomnia, I caught one of my favorite movies, IMPACT, on TV. This 1946 film noir gem stars Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines. I was about 20 minutes into the movie when it hit me (I’m quick on the draw, aren’t I?). “Too coincidental,” I quipped. “I need something more.” I envision my crew just standing in a semi-circle behind me shaking their heads in unison.

Admittedly, I am a bit of an Ella Raines fan. I’ve snagged a few photos of her over the years at some Hollywood memorabilia shows (yes, I am THAT big of a nerd). So the name Ella DOES have a personal significance for me. That being said, I’m thinking I could have easily allowed my own subconscious feed me the name in the beginning. My love of old movies would dictate that I would select an older film to watch at that hour. I pride myself in my logic—a polite word for ‘bullheaded stubbornness’. Once the movie was over, and I was not even close to renewing my citizenship in Slumberland, I jumped on eBay and gave a cursory search for Ella Raines memorabilia. One of the first items up for bid was an autographed photo! Well, how about that? I’ve seen a few autographed pieces over the years and the bids are almost always nearing the triple digits. Too rich for my cholesterol tainted blood. But this photo was different. It was being offered at a mere $18.00. While the black and white photo itself is not one of her best, the signature was billed as being authentic. Upon inspection my heart stopped, started again, skipped a beat and then began to swing dance. The photo was endorsed, “To Charles…”

Yes, once the feeling came back to my brain, I bought it.

ImageBut, once again, I doubted. It’s no wonder that I have a Guide named Thomas. Doubt is my Native American surname.

Later in the week someone on a Movie Memorabilia list to which I subscribe, posted a set of autographed photos he was selling. He was clearing out an enormous collection of photos from the Golden Age of Hollywood. I glanced over the treasures, ranging from Bacall to Ball and Cagney to Cotton, and found myself coveting each and every one. However, the only one that really jumped out at me was that of Colleen Moore. She was a popular actress in the 20’s and 30’s until her early retirement in 1934. I really knew nothing about her. I knew the name and that was about the extent of it. But I found her photo absolutely captivating. Honestly, there wasn’t really anything special about it but, on some level, it spoke to me. I emailed the seller and asked for the price. I was told it was $50, non negotiable. Too much for me at this point but I just couldn’t get the photo out of my mind. So, like any good geek, I started researching Ms. Moore. I wanted to find out why I found the portrait so enchanting. I soon discovered that her most famous role was in a 1926 modernization of Cinderella entitled “ELLA CINDERS.”

Oh, come on… Seriously?

Like a dog with a really juicy steak bone, I began gnawing even more. It seems that Ella Raines and Colleen Moore were both born in the month of August. My spiritual journey began in August, 2001. Both women passed away in 1988, which is an “8” in numerology and, yes, kiddies, August is the 8th month.

But, yet again, I’m just not buying into it. (Yea, save it, I know what you’re thinking…I am psychic after all!) I still hadn’t felt anyone or anything since the drop-in while I was channeling my inner house frau some days prior. Oh, sure, I could have just taken the time to simply meditate and tune into this new energy but, c’mon! That would just be silly! In case you haven’t noticed, I wear my pigheadedness like a letterman’s jacket.

A couple of nights ago, when insomnia and I were once again having a staring contest, I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures by watching an episode of MYSTERIES & SCANDALS on YouTube. This was a 30-minute syndicated TV show that was produced in the late 90’s. It made up of hokey reenactments and “investigations” into various Hollywood scandals throughout the years. And, thankfully, the vast majority of them are stockpiled on YouTube. I looked over the program listings and chose, for reasons unknown to me at the time, the episode devoted to the tragic murder of actor, Sal Mineo. I was never a fan. Like Colleen Moore, I didn’t really know much about Sal. But this is the only episode I opted to watch that night. As I clicked ‘play’ I actually said aloud, “I have no idea why I’m watching this.” I discovered the answer 4 minutes and 4 seconds into the video. It seems that one of Sal’s earliest acting jobs was a guest role on what I’m sure was a riveting program entitled ‘Janet Dean: Registered Nurse’. Television in the 50’s was just so simplistic, wasn’t it? The title character, Janet Dean, was played by none other than Ella Raines.

Oh, Sweet Mother…

I just sat there, nestled somewhere between numb and awe. Admittedly, I didn’t want to believe that I had yet another Guide. It seems silly, I know. But I honestly did not want to face this all too looming reality. I’d dodged it for quite a few days by this time and I was hoping my agile footwork would help me evade the entire event. Eleven Guides? Good God…Eleven? I must be a lost cause to them so does that now make me a charity case? Ella is my eleventh Guide. My Guides frequently use the number eleven in their spiritual shorthand. It’s like a “thumbs up” from the Other Side in my reference manual. That’s when I realized Ella even has an 11 in her name… “Fine. You win,” I laughed. I spread my arms wide, and said what I always say prior to giving a reading… “OK, let’s do this!”

I sat at my desk, stilled myself—a rarity let me tell you—and Ella officially spoke through me, via paper and pen, for the very first time:

“It is what it is but only if that is how you choose to leave it. Something is before you at all times—a task, a choice, a pathway to take or ignore. Analyze it to your heart’s content but, ask yourself, is this part of your action, your solution, or is this another excuse to not move onward? You always know the truth but are you strong enough to admit it aloud to yourself? Anything can be improved upon, anything can be enhanced and extended beyond its original conception. If your completion of each level is done to your true satisfaction then it IS complete! If it is only reached in order to give the delusion of execution then you are living, breathing and being a LIE. Please be true to yourself, respect your potential, honor your capabilities and be the LIFE!” – Ella

I can tell you she’s going to be quite the taskmaster. She has an accent but I am not sure of the origin at this point. It may be British, possibly Irish or Scottish. Her diction is quite exaggerated to the point that she even rolls her “R’s”. Her voice projects with great self-assurance. Her strong presence makes me think she may have even been on the stage during a lifetime or two. It’s going to be an interesting experience as we get to know one another.

I can’t help but wonder, of course, just how long it’s going to take me to drive Ella to drink…


Copyright 2014 © Charles A. Filius

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