Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Tibetan Book of the Dead


For a couple of years, I worked in a social work center dementia clinic on the border of Detroit. It was the kind of place untouched by time -- even in the late 90s, we used typewriters (and gallons of wite-out, my boss' equivalent of we were poor, but we were always clean). It was Office Space meets The Snake Pit, with a dash of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Some of our clients had been around forever, some predicatble nuts like Dolores S., a woman always convinced that people were watching her and that she needed our handyman (a semi-handy college student) to come out and change her porch lightbulbs (the better for the watchers to see her perhaps?) and the scary situations (two dementia cases wandering out and hailing a taxi into the city, gone for hours). The dementia clinic sat below the social work center and in the afternoons after finishing the billing (I always let people run way way behind on their bills which were endless and mind-boggling), I'd hang over the railing and watch the aides work with the clients (patients were now clients, only the wanderguards strapped to their arms and the alarms at every door remained the same), singing songs and playing with dolls. (A common side effect of Alzheimers is the belief that inantimate objects are real -- I fear this makes me mildly symptomatic as I talk to things as if they had a soul -- Hello, Mr. Toothbrush, Hello Baby Grouchie, well, you get the idea). The Tibetans believe that inantimate objects carry souls -- the word for this eludes me. Every afternoon, one woman would yell that her baby was dead, did we understand her. She'd shake her doll and stomp on it, then she'd let loose with a string of curses that would make anyone blush. (Another side effect of dementia -- women often become violent and start swearing -- I also fear that I have this symptom even at my relatively youngish age).

We'd often get people serving community service to "help" with the work. By the time most of them saw the working arrangments, they wanted to go back to serve time or at least pick up trash off the side of the road. One guy said that spending an hour at Calvary made him want to "get fucked up really bad, man." He asked me if it gave me the creeps to see old people every day, out of their minds. "The wave of the future," I said. "We all end up that way." I smiled the kind of evil smile that I reserved for those I felt needed it. But by the end of the day or week or month, the volunteers got to leave. Their sentence was for something bad they did and they paid it and it was over. As for me, I stayed on without a plan. I walked in the doors every day of my own free will, or as free as a person who desperately needed money would ever be, and each day I walked out, no wanderguard attached to me, but sometimes I tripped the alarm anyway, causing a small commotion before I left.


Michelle's Spell of the Day

"In the hungry ghost realm there is a tremendous feeling of richness, a gathering of a lot of possessions . . . And this makes us more hungry, more deprived, because people derive pleasure not from possessing alone but from searching." The Tibetan Book of the Dead

Hungry Ghost

2 shots of vodka
1 glass of 7up

Serve over crushed ice and garnish with a cherry for a bloody festivity!


Benedictions and Maledictions

To Trouble Man -- Glad to be of help! Keep us posted on how things go. As for the type of tequila, I'm partial to Silver Heradura myself.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Today's triple-header "Quote of the Day":#1: The spirit is rich in resource; and it gives itself out as a traveller and tells marvelous lies about its supposed native land, where it was a prince and an omnipotent poet. These boasts serve the spirit as a declaration of independence, and a claim to immense superiority above the world. This independence, however, is really only the independence of ignorance, that must think and act at random; and the spirit would add sanity to its spirituality if it recognized the natural, precarious, and exquisite life of which it is the spirit.--G.Santayana;#2: I learned an important stylistic lesson from a study I once conducted on suicide notes....grand rhetorical flourishes there are noe, and none of the fury in the notes of those who fully intend to be found and saved--"I mean it this time. Mood swing my backside. You lot have done this to me. You shud lison to me When a sad I need help. This is why I dont want to be around no one belives me. Your all regret."--When it comes to the true and honest expression of emotion, less is more, and vehemence is nothing.--Theodore Dalrymple;#3: Winding up somewhere one step ahead or behind--Waylon J.

Bonnie said...

Honey,
I love those sunglasses on you. I'll send you a pair of Lolita shades. You're the only woman over thirty who can pull them off perfectly besides Angelina.
kiss kiss
Bon

luma said...

The death always intrigues the peoples and therefore we saw the most diverse explanations. Better to believe that life exists after the death, of that to find that all the work of the life will turn leached ashes. Daqui forgives in being a little absent. I travelled per one days and I am taking off all the delay daqui. Beijus

Paul said...

O Mighty Isis, Foxy Lady Cajun Queen, rock out. Hungry Ghost gives me the willies, tho
R2 C2!

Anonymous said...

Another marvelous photo, Michelle. Cross imagery in the background. Manfred Mann comes to mind--Blinded by the light. Thus, the sunglasses and the sub(conscious) hope for illumination rather than (moral)blindness. Well done.

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle,

Wonderful post, as always, and as always, you are the vision of loveliness. I'll have to look for the Tibetan Book of the Dead for further study. Bravo to you and yours!