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Peace - Gilbert Creutzberg

Discovery

By

 

Gilbert Creutzberg

 

   I don’t like Florida. That has nothing to do with Jeb Bush, or the polling system, or the weather. I love hot weather, and I have no problem when temperatures rise into the nineties.

   I don’t like seeing the highways, hotels and supermarkets clogged with Disney commercials. I detest houses with manicured lawns, where the owners will take neighbors to court for non-compliance with trimming of lawns and will wage orchestrated warfare against anything that is perceived as weed, fearing a decline in real estate values.

   Florida is flatter than a pancake, like Holland, my home country, but it doesn’t have the aura of a historic past that formed unique national characteristics. Rather, Florida is as conformist as The Stafford Wives (“How are you, Mrs. Jones?”  “I am fine, Mrs. Peterson.”)

   Then why did I travel to Florida, against my best wishes, desires and forebodings, for the third time in my life? The answer is simple: to visit the son of my friend José.

   When the days passed and it became evident that the main reason for the visit failed to materialize, due to some breakdown in communications, a feeling began to creep up on me when I asked myself, “What are we doing here?”

   Like an elusive equation with too many missing data, the exact cause of the problems is irrelevant and it remains unsolved. Suffice to say that we were somewhat in the blues in spite of our attempts to try, rather desperately, to make the best of a bleak situation.

   Though being caught in Kissimmee, Fla., must make one feel like an insect sucked into a Venus trap, there were items that made the trap bearable, even enjoyable. The motel was inexpensive, but comfortable and clean. The TV had good cable reception. It provided HBO without extra charge. The swimming pool was lukewarm and the Jacuzzi was too hot to risk dipping in your toes.

   There was guaranteed proximity to supermarkets, in addition to McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell. But surprisingly, there were also remnants of another Florida-mysterious oases with lakes, swamps, mangroves, palm trees and lush vegetation.

   We visited those sites, teeming with wildlife, rather than succumbing to Disney World, and we were able to view some true sightseeing wonders for prices far below those charged for entrée to the amusement parks.

   Then, on our last vacation day, a miracle happened. We saw a sign that said HELICOPTER RIDES $15, and we drove in. A young man about age twenty-the same age as José’s son-stood at the entrance. We thought he was an attendant, or a passenger waiting for the next ride. As he addressed us in Spanish, it soon became clear that he was hoping that somebody would invite him for a ride. He said that he could pay part of the cost, and that it would actually be to our advantage, since the ride with an extra person would be a few minutes longer.

   José and I looked at each other, quickly guessing each other’s thoughts-“Let’s take the kid for a ride.”  When you get good vibes, you must respond. I felt intuitively what went on in José’s mind. His son had not shown up, but someone else had.

   The young man introduced himself as Alan. His name, in Spanish, was Alejandro, and he was from Mexico. He was dressed with a clean white T-shirt, had short hair and an engaging smile. He said he had always wanted to go for a ride in a plane, because his uncle is a pilot.

  We arranged that he would contribute five dollars, and I would pay the rest. We got into the copter and off we were heading for the skies.

   The sun shone brilliantly on the city below. The McDonalds and Burger Kings had lost their ugly banality and had become part of a large toy box, with patches of green and countless lakes, havens for Florida’s beloved alligators and crocodiles.

   The helicopter made a swing sideways and Alejandro, sitting next to the pilot, looked back at us, delight shining in his face. He asked the pilot where Mexico was. The pilot pointed to the west. I tried to capture everything with my camcorder of what seemed like a moment in history.

   You don’t get a long ride for $15, but it’s the quality, not the quantity, that counts. When we got out, Alejandro thanked us profusely. He said that he had no place to go, but that he received meals at the nearby church that leases part of its property to the helicopter business.

   Even before I wanted to give the kid his five dollars back, José had the same thought and pulled out a five-spot from his wallet. Amazingly, we were on the same wavelength.

    Was that the Discovery wavelength? Maybe so. Instead of leaving a bad taste from the resentment of a vacation spoiled by breakdowns of communication, something totally unexpected had happened: we had made friends with somebody who for a few moments in our lives had become a son to José; to me, the son I never had.

   It’s the kind of inspirational discovery when suddenly light through a stained glass window yields a kaleidoscopic effect that one sometimes associates with the insight that something very significant is happening. For only a few moments, you realize that your expectations have blinded you to the unpredictable parts of the equation you were looking for, and without which you were unable to solve anything or to make sense out of it.

   Call it what you want. If you believe, like I do, that God lives in all of us, you recognize the existence of a truth that was always there-our connectedness as human beings.

   We didn’t invite our new friend to come along with us, although we both gave it thought. We realized that it was better to leave the experience for what it was: a few moments of intense sharing, and a discovery that life is beautiful-even in Florida.

 

See the video "Helicopter ride"  by going to the heading "Videos" 

 

 

Written 9/16/’07

The story occurred 9/13/’07

©2007 Gilbert Creutzberg

 

 

 

 

 

Some Poems

 

Halloween

 

 

The kids say “Trick ‘r Treat,” for Halloween is here.

 

Some people say it each day of the year.

 

 

                                                                                  October 31,  1955

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sunken forest

 

Sonnet

 

 

The light is dim. The heavy scent of leaves

 

and rotting wood pervades the air. I stroll

 

like in a dream. The cries of birds galore

 

is everywhere. The path seems without goal.

 

 

I pick some berries, and their taste is sweet…

 

I wander on, through swamps, through bush, through reeds,

 

until I finally have reached the bay,

 

and, through the woods, the path me backwards leads.

 

 

This is my Id. Here lies preserved my Self,

 

a part of me, still full of vital life

 

and raw emotions, dormant in its strife.

 

 

How neatly it is kept in place!  How long

 

before this vestige of primeval nature is destroyed?

 

How many years, or weeks, or hours to be enjoyed?

 

 

 

 

                                                                               August 1963

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange smell

 

 

Some time ago

 

the smell of my body suddenly changed.

 

Before, I used to love

 

the odor of my armpits.

 

Now, it was different.

 

I stank like a tiger in heat

 

or worse, like an old goat.

 

My body had become that of a stranger.

 

Why did I stink?

 

Had I eaten something wrong

 

or was I getting old?

 

I hated this awful fucking smell!

 

Then, just as mysteriously

 

as it had begun, it disappeared.

 

I do not know if I smell different

 

than I did before, to other people,

 

but I love the odor of my armpits again,

 

and every once in a while

 

I put my fingers there and bring them to my nostrils

 

and I know

 

I’m me, and I feel happy.

 

                                                                                     Summer 1970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Farewell Note

 

 

 

(To Whom It May Concern)

 

 

As I’m finishing these charts

 

with love and affection,

 

I’m blowing some farts

 

in your direction

 

 

 

                                                                                 October 1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No I.D.

 

 

I walked through the woods

 

naked.

 

Left my clothes behind

 

at the waterfall.

 

I must have walked

 

more than a mile.

 

Someone met me:

 

“It is against the law

 

to walk here

 

without proper attire.

 

May I see your I.D.?”

 

(Maybe he thought I was crazy.)

 

I told him I had none.

 

I felt happy to be without I.D.,

 

to be just me,

 

walking naked in the woods.

 

I smiled as the man disappeared,

 

a vision from a forgotten dream.

 

                                                                        July 1978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nigger

 

 

Of course, that word is never used

 

by liberal white folks

 

who read the New York Times.

 

It’s a forbidden word.

 

But then, I wish I too could use it

 

the way my black friends do –

 

without a trace of ugliness,

 

as an endearment, or in jest,

 

pure soul,

 

a word with warmth and gentle sound,

 

with feelings of a common bond.

 

I envy them.

 

I cannot say it

 

without sounding phoney,

 

and so

 

I think it sometimes,

 

Like a whisper in my mind.

 

Then, rather much to my surprise,

 

some of my friends say jokingly to me,

 

“Hey, nigger!”

 

I take it as a compliment:

 

I have become an Oreo cookie in reverse.     

 

 

                       

                                                                              October 1979

 

     Published in “Our Twentieth Century’s Greatest Poems,” 1982

 

 

 

Obama the Great Dude

 

(Very rhythmically:)

O bam bam bam

O bam bam bam

Obama, Obama

 

(Refrain:) (possibly in E flat Major)

 

Barack Obama, yo, great dude,

You give us hope and that is good.

 

Hope for a better tomorrow,

Without war and without sorrow.

We’ll work with you for change.

Obama, it won’t be strange

That with you as our captain and chief,

There’s hope, that is our belief!

 

(Lyrical section, possibly in B major)

Barack, you have a vision we share

Of a country with people who really care,

United in making your dream come true

Of a better world for us and for you,

For us, for our children, for the earth, where we live –

You’ll make it come true with the hope that you give.

 

(Return to refrain in E Major)

 

©2008

Submitted to "Obama for America"

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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