Gregor’s Pilgrimage to Nepal

Jack the YakMany years ago, Gregor traveled to Nepal. He was in search of enlightenment. He also wanted to have his lobotomy blessed by the Wise Elders, and to strengthen international ties with this part of the world.

Gregor found many wonderful people in Nepal. During his stay, he was given a guide to help him acclimatize to this ancient, fascinating culture. Gregor’s  guide was named Jack. Here is a portrait of Jack the Yak taken on the day he met with Gregor for the first time.

Gregor and Jack became close friends. To this day, Gregor stays in touch, despite the obvious differences in language and culture. Gregor has never forgotten Jack and hopes that his old comrade and mentor shares the same wonderful memories of their time together.

The Nepalese are known for their generosity and friendliness. They open their homes and hearts to all who visit, even those who have suffered from failed lobotomies. Gregor quickly realized there was much to be learned from these wise, patient and thoughtful people.

Among the traditions of hospitality that Gregor experienced in Nepal was the giving of gifts. All guests are honored. No one is turned away and no one leaves with an empty hand.

Buford the PuppyThe most treasured gift given to Gregor was this cutie. Gregor named him Buford. He was believed to have been born in neighboring Tibet, now sadly closed to the rest of the world. Buford was said to have been of royal blood, a true and faithful companion for a lifetime.

Naturally, Gregor was pleased and grateful for such a wonderful gift. As Gregor and Buford left their many friends in Nepal, he could only think of what new and fantastic adventures had crossed their path. Gregor could not remember being happier. Buford was clearly excited about visiting a new country, and getting warm.

As time moved forward, Buford began to mature and develop into his fulsome robustness. Here is a picture of Buford during his Middle School years.

Buford in Middle School

What a handsome beast!

However, Buford was becoming rather protective of Gregor. Worse, he now weighed in at over 200 pounds and was not yet fully grown. Gregor began to struggle with food costs, grooming appointments, and a leash that would work for those long walks. Buford was patient throughout, always making the most of his new life in America. He was thoughtful, always kind, and everything was sorted out over the intervening years.

When Buford finally graduated from High School, he was ready to face the world on his own. Here is his school photo on that momentous day.

Buford Graduates

As you can imagine, Buford excelled at sports. He was particularly fond of football and became legendary for his offensive skills. Gregor was as proud as a father could be. Buford had not only survived the culture shock of leaving his homeland but had become fully integrated into our culture. He was his own man.

Buford went on to college. He continued to play football but was eventually sidelined when he allegedly bit an opposing quarterback. This was a controversial time for Buford, and for Gregor. However, it was only a minor setback.

Buford finally graduated college with honors. He became a respected mathematician and natural trail guide. Buford moved to Orlando, settled down, and began raising his own family. Naturally, Buford and Gregor remained close. Letters were written, calls were made, travel was regular.

As Buford matured, Gregor couldn’t help but notice how much he began to look like his old friend, Jack. The similarities were amazing and, to Gregor, very pleasing. Here is a recent photo of Buford in his Orlando back yard.

Buford as a Young Man

Gregor could not be more pleased. He is so proud of Buford, so thrilled that he has kept his roots alive and thriving, despite living in Orlando. Buford has become a force to be reckoned with, physically and spiritually. He is also quite handsome, eh?

Gregor will visit Nepal again someday. This time he will take Buford and his young family along for the journey. Nothing can stop them now, not even a failed lobotomy.

Gregor lives here.

Gregor Spanks His Shrink

Gregor

Gregor likes his shrink, most of the time. However, sometimes his shrink just goes too far. When this happens, Gregor gives him a good spanking.

This is a spank day for Gregor’s shrink.

Gregor thinks that shrinks create too many “syndromes” and “obias” for the general good of the population. He’s very sorry that his own shrink partakes in this kind of ritual, which is probably its own syndrome. So, Gregor would like you to know about some of these excesses of the shrink-mind. He would like you to talk to any shrink you can find and make a plea for simplification.

Gregor thinks these syndromes, disorders and phobias are more complicated than a toaster. He wonders if they are reality-based. He wonders why they have been sliced so precisely from the mental pie. Gregor has doubts about the DSM.

Mythomania. This is the term used by shrinks and only shrinks. It really means nothing more than a pathological liar. In other words, a person who lies about everything for no reason at all. Now, we all know someone like that, right? So, why the “mania?” Keep it simple. Call it what it is. Besides, since when is “myth” and “lie” the same thing? Big spank for this one.

Somatoparaphrenia. It’s a delusion in which the sufferer denies ownership of some part of his or her body. Maybe it’s an arm, leg, or a larger part of the body. Could be a combination. The bottom line is that the sufferer believes something like, “This (insert body part) doesn’t belong to me! It isn’t mine!” Gregor has had these same feelings, usually about his head. He just calls it Alien Head Syndrome.

Alice in Wonderland (1933 film)

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (Micropsia). This is one of Gregor’s favorites, so he chooses to spank lightly. It’s a legacy from the baby-boomer, drug-dropping generation. Hint: Think of Jefferson Airplane and White Rabbit. Yep, that’s it. Time, space, and everything else goes tiny, shrunken and distorted, even without the drugs. Scary? Maybe not. Gregor thinks of this syndrome as a flash-back.

Foreign Accent Syndrome. OK, try to follow this one, eh? You suddenly develop a foreign accent. You have no idea how to speak the foreign language, but you have the perfect accent. Sounds like something out of Hollywood to Gregor. Rare, but it happens. Gregor would like to try this out the next time he travels to Mississippi.

Genital Retraction Syndrome. Gregor doesn’t even like to think about this one. The sufferer believes that his or her genitals are retracting and will soon disappear. Every culture seems to fall prey to this one. There have even been cases of mass hysteria in Asia, Europe and Africa. This one is so prevalent that it appears in the DSM, the holy book for all shrinks. Gregor doesn’t want to say more about this one.

Paris Syndrome. Visit Paris and this might happen to you. It involves delusional states, paranoia, and hallucinations while visiting the City of Lights. Some sufferers come down with a profound sense of losing themselves when confronted by rude waiters. Others sweat profusely, get dizzy, and develop a rapid heart beat. Relief is usually at hand as soon as Paris is behind. Gregor thinks this one is swamp gas since he liked Paris very much.

Stendhal Syndrome. This one is also called “hyperkulturemia,” which is a word only a shrink could invent. Check this out. It only happens when you are viewing beautiful artwork or something equally beautiful. Your heart begins to race, you sweat, you get dizzy, you get confused, you may hallucinate and you might faint. Geez. Stay away from those art galleries, says Gregor.

English: jerusalem syndrome

Jerusalem Syndrome. So, you’re doing just fine. You travel to Jerusalem. Suddenly, you develop obsessive ideas, fall into some psychotic state, develop delusions, perhaps hallucinations. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian, Muslim or Jew. You get it anyway. Visit Jerusalem and freak out. Shrinks like this one so much they have given it three different “types” to sort it all out for the rest of us. Gregor wonders.

Capgras Delusion. Imagine this. You think your spouse, best friend, your sibling or someone else close to you is an imposter. Some shrinks call it a delusion, others a syndrome. When it happens, shrinks agree that the problem runs much deeper than the delusion. Gregor agrees.

Fregoli Delusion. Gregor likes this one. Imagine that you believe a bunch of different people are actually the same person in disguise. Even shrinks will tell you this one is rare. Gregor disagrees. Gregor sees disguised people all around him, along with his alien head and an intense fear of art.

Reduplicative Paramnesia. This one is troublesome. Imagine that your favorite coffee hangout actually exists in two places at the same time. What if it’s your own house? Your own bathroom? Urg. Gregor has heard of quantum entanglement. Is this the same thing on a larger scale? This goodie sometimes happens after a brain injury. Gregor’s self-lobotomy failed. Is there a connection?

Gregor lives here.

The 1963 Novelist

beat generation

It’s a blessing that the old days are behind us. Back then, writing was strange, life-altering, completely crazy and not very healthy. I think today’s writers have found a better way. Still, it’s fun to remember.

Do not try this silliness at home. Ever.

I’m thinking 1963 or so. Near the end of the Beat Generation. I’m remembering how it all worked, the protocols, the habits and customs for chasing the muse. Looking back, it seems bizarre and downright alien. I’m surprised so many of us survived it.

The protocols were known to most writers, adored by many, but mostly useless to real creativity. They served a purpose unique to that generation and time.

The Beat Generation

Get loaded. Step one was critical. Get stoned, drunk, flocked, strung-out, zipped, flayed, and buzzed. At least one of those was necessary. The great writers, the real inspirations, did several at once. It was a regular ritual. Of course, we all knew we would never die, so why not let it all loose? The point was to unleash the muse so you could a-muse yourself and stun all your writer friends with unanticipated feats of creativity.

Get together. After the zipping came the get-together. There were haunts. Secret places that only writer-artists frequented. Well, there were a few artists on the scene. The rest of us were wannabes. But that didn’t matter. We could talk the talk, walk the walk with the best of them. Coffee houses were primo spots. Similar hangs. Anywhere the muse would gather with intensity. It had to be dark, flooded with cool music, and stand apart from all tourists and normal folk.

Bitch about the world. You had to be dissatisfied to be a real writer. There was no point in being happy about the Universe, except when you were super-duper-loaded, which was considered uncool. Bitch, moan, groan, grumble and mumble. It was the secondary fuel to get your writer friends talking. Since talking didn’t come naturally, the zippy state of mind and the secret haunt would always do the trick, if you could whine effectively. If you didn’t have a stick up your posterior, you just weren’t cool. If you weren’t cool, you weren’t an artist. The key was to be dissatisfied. You could never be an important writer unless everything was wrong.

The Beat Museum on Broadway Street in San Fran...

Get a little higher. Now that everyone was gathered, time to refuel. Whatever it was that got your high going, it was time to do more of it. That usually meant drinking. We weren’t all that experimental back then. That came later, when the hippies took over and gave us all the boot. Forget wine. Go right to the hard, and do it hard. If you used water or ice, you were a wimp. Wimps could never be real writers.

Spew crappy ideas. This was key. Throw out some really stupid writing ideas. The crazier the better. There was a twofold purpose here. First, you didn’t want to give away the real thing, that special story line you knew would change the world. So, you threw out pure doo-doo. Second, it was a special test of artistry. Back then, really dumb ideas could become really popular, overnight. Sometimes they actually weren’t so dumb. Sometimes they were innovative and ground-breaking. So, throw it out there and see who bites. But always keep the really good stuff in your back pocket. This was not yet the Love Generation. It was Beat or get eaten.

Destroy the crappy ideas. You guessed it. Next was the Roman-style death of all ideas. Each one had to be addressed. Each was torn apart, ridiculed, dissected and usually impaled. If the idea wasn’t all that dull, it got the slightest head nod from the group just before it was put to death. That didn’t happen often. It was usually a feeding frenzy. Nothing was spared.

REAL OLD BEATNIKS NOW: 1959 BEAT GENERATION

A little more juice. Time for refills, all around. Getting late now. Gotta keep the muse alive and jumping. The desperate group-search for the next extraordinary idea has, once again, fallen on its backside.

Out come the notebooks. Everyone scribbled for a few moments. Nothing was legible but it was vital to scribble, to seal the deal by doing what all important writers were known to do – take notes. Everyone had these little blue notebooks, the kind that could easily slip into a jacket pocket. If you didn’t have one of those, you were an outcast, unclean, never destined to be a successful writer. So they all scribbled. Never show your notebook to anyone. Never.

Weed time. The bold ones go around the corner and smoke. The others order one more from the well. A huge act of defiance out there with the weeders. They were bold, avant-garde, the real deal. Inside, the last round for the rest of us, so go out with mucho gusto. The muse is somewhere else, trying to get sober.

Back to bitching. Just for a few moments.

Getting drowsy.

Getting bored.

Time to go home and write something.

See you tomorrow.

Soppy Writer Nostalgia and City Lights Books

City Lights BeatNostalgia is like salt. Use too much and it spoils the meal. But remembering has its place, especially when those memories continue to influence our lives, or an entire generation.

I’m talking about City Lights Books in San Francisco. I’m remembering the final days of the Beat Generation. I’m thinking about some fantastic word artists, poets and writers who influenced more than a generation.

Ferlinghettin at City Lights in 2007Perhaps you’ve heard about those days. Recognize the names Allen Ginsberg or Lawrence Ferlinghetti? Has the term “Beat Generation” crossed your path? Ever read Howl? If you get to San Francisco, just ask any cab driver. In fact, ask anyone on the street and you’ll probably get a finger-point in the right direction. What happened back then changed the way we write, how we think, the direction of our art.

In 1953, still in the early years of the Beat Generation, Ferlinghetti and a friend founded City Lights Books. Like most things Beat, it was an experiment in artistic freedom, a way to express the movement in a three-dimensional way. At the time, it was a major shot in the dark that turned out to be an epic success. No one could have foreseen its impact on a generation of poets and writers. It was, and remains, a labor of love.

Allen GinsbergI can’t remember precisely when I first sat in on a poetry reading at City Lights. It was in the early 1960s. At the time, poets were street people, they had faces we all recognized, they were familiar and fascinating. They would read and write, we would meet at a local Italian coffee shop and talk.

But the Beat Generation was dying, transforming itself into the hippie counterculture movement to come. As I recall, everything was changing, including how we wrote about the world. These artists were the vanguard. But, at the time, they were seen as rebellious miscreants by much of the larger society. We had a different perspective. What we could sense was the inescapable rush of fresh art, and its home base was City Lights.

Everyone wanted to be a poet back then. Me, too. I just didn’t have the talent. But the allure of the movement, the intense creativity that it spawned, was irresistible. Those were heady times. Art was exploding into unexpected forms, experimentation was everywhere. Poets and writers were pushing limits, inventing original genres. It was impossible to stand apart from the energy, to not be sucked up into the tsunami of talent and artistry. It was a high time, in every way.

City Lights BookstoreMostly, it was all about change. The poets and writers of those times were dissatisfied with the blandness, boredom and hypocrisy of the 1950s. Songwriters were creating hot counter-visions at a furious pace. Writers were breaking all the rules. It was this crunchy re-imaging of the world that caught my attention and kept it. We all felt the itch to move ahead, make some kind of change, be legitimate. We were searching for our own voices and City Lights was at the heart of this new heartbeat. It was a place of intensity and passion, always.

City Lights Books was a cauldron of transformation, a focal point for creative energy and emerging talent. It’s hard to imagine getting excited about hanging around a bookstore. But that’s what happened. Although it was a bookstore on the outside, it was our temple, our secret place. Within its walls, it was a storehouse of unexpected beginnings, experimentation and evolution. It was facile, comfortable, avant-garde in every way.

OK, perhaps that’s a bit too much nostalgia. There was a dark side. Let’s take a small step backward.

Everyone drank too much. It was considered essential fuel for the creative soul. Doing weed was, at first, considered to be a monumental act of defiance against an insensitive society. There was lots of new stuff to try. But the Beat Generation quickly became an unwilling springboard to more dangerous drug experimentation. We began to lean on the crutch, to use it too much. Some of us lost our creative souls and had to start the journey all over again.

The scene outside the storefront could get ugly, sometimes very brutal. Anger ran too deep for many of us. Change became challenge, challenge became defiance, defiance became violence. None of this was good for us, the City, or the Country. I suppose it was the inevitable warping evolution of transformation. But it was sometimes outrageous and grotesque. There was the dark side. There’s always that ying-yang thing at work. We could have looked the other way.

City Lights InsideStill, back at City Lights, the art went on, uninterpreted. The bookstore became a haven for the poet and writer, a place of solidarity where the word still reigned over politics, even when the two clashed. It was an island, always. A place where art was given birth and always nurtured. It stood fast even when the streets were riotous and uncertain. There was always City Lights. The place thrived, became a center of social consciousness, a publishing house, a patron of the written word, everything that an embryonic idea could ever hope to achieve.

City Lights continues, even today. It’s an amazing exception to the flood of failed bookstores. It still publishes, still sells books, still draws the attention of those who want to follow the written word. City Lights is one amazing place, and it’s unforgettable. All the changes, all the challenges and it still rocks on, doing what it was meant to do back in the early 1950s. The basement of City Lights is still that safe and powerful sanctuary. It’s not nostalgia alone. It’s legacy.

Going to San Francisco?

Writers: Spank Publishers, Go Podding

PublisherIf you’re in the publishing business, you’ll be unhappy with what follows. It’s meant to give you a good spanking for your bad behavior. This is about writers and their rights, freedoms and alternatives.

I‘ve been around the writing business too long. My memories of working with publishers are mostly good. But, these days, they’re also dingy, irrelevant artifacts. Publishing was never a perfect industry but, by today’s standards, it was at least a somewhat meaningful partnership. No more.

Astute writers are aware of the immense changes in publishing. The word is out there and has been floating around for years. But matters have become truly ugly, especially for young writers trying to make a mark with their words. Today, publishers are circling overhead, waiting for the kill, happy to parse out a tedious, stingy contract in exchange for the writer doing all the work. In reality, these are not publishers at all. They are opportunists who provide no added value, suck up profits, and dump the entire workload on the writer. They are predators and they’re everywhere.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when the publisher was a work-partner, someone who actually provided added value for the writer. Well, forget that idea. It’s history. If you’re a writer, the best you can hope for is helper monkey status on a publisher’s relentless push toward greater profits. You are nothing more than an overworked, abused commodity to publishers.

Black Vulture, very common around towns and ci...

Vulture publishers, magazines, anthologies and the like are preying upon a writer’s intense desire to see his or her work in print, or e-print. That’s the hook and the publisher has no problem setting it with a ruthless determination. Just to spice the stew, anyone can start a publishing company these days. It takes virtually no work, no experience and no skill. It’s a nice landscape for cannibalism, and guess who is the main course?

The few remaining large publishing houses are no better than the newcomers. They also demand that a writer do all the work while they suck up virtually all the profits using insidious and completely unfair contracts. This is their method of survival since the advent of e-publishing. These organizations, old and new, thrive on turning their writers into less-than-partner status who can provide all the publishing services they once provided. To settle the matter, they then put the writer into last place in any contact while they drink the profit cocktail fully.

Do writers even need publishers these days? Probably not, if they find another way to penetrate the reader market. There’s no reason for a writer to self-sacrifice in order to get his or her words out there. There are alternatives, many ways to get around publisher blood-letting.

Something that appeals to me is the idea of writing/publishing “pods.” It sounds a little strange, I know, but that’s because I’ve not given it the time to come up with a better description. Forget the alien context for a minute.

Let me give you an example.

writing

Suppose there exists a small collection of writers. Let’s say 5 or 6 of them. Throw in a trusted editor. Now, add an individual who knows enough about the publishing business to act in that role. Also, someone strong in web design, social media, that kind of thing. In other words, marketing. So, all together, no more than 10 or so individuals. Call it a “pod” for lack of a better term.

Now, this pod has one goal in mind. Get those writers published and do it in a way that makes money. All contracts stay within the pod. The profits are shared on the basis of value, decided in advance by the members. The group writes, works, edits, markets and publishes for the common good. Each member has an equal voice; all important decisions are made democratically. Predators are not welcome.

OK, it sounds a bit idealistic, I admit. The pod would have to start small, with a tight group and inherent trust among members. But it could evolve. It could hold true to its common purpose and become a self-sustaining enterprise. It could, in fact, become much like the traditional, value-added publisher but in a far less predatory way. It could be an enterprise that re-writes the hackneyed rules of publishing and offers a more equitable way of doing the business of writing. If done correctly, members of a successful pod would have no need for publishers at all, no demands for writers to subjugate themselves to the publishing altar of greed. They would operate for the common good and, hopefully, prosper. Forget the top-down gorging on the work of others. Share the load, share the profits.

So, call me a dreamer. None of this will likely happen. Publishers will probably continue preying upon writers to the fullest extent possible. It’s a sad state for today’s young writers. And this idea may be completely unworkable for a number of reasons, mostly sociological. But the point is simple. There are alternatives to the hungry, self-absorbed publisher.

What I absolutely believe is that writers deserve much better treatment from publishers than they are receiving. Since it’s unlikely that publishers will simply do the right thing, it’s up to writers to step out in front and take charge of their careers. There is really no reason to become the slave of a publisher in the modern marketplace. They can be set aside, replaced by a different model, should those who really do the work choose a different way of following their art.

Whatever you may think about the publishing industry these days, don’t be too quick to sign that contract. It will likely be a very unhappy experience. Before you sign, consider the alternatives.

New Papa Arrives, Gregor Has Questions

PopeThe Red Cards have slapped us with a new Papa! Gregor can breathe again, finally. But Gregor is uncertain about what it all means. He hopes the future will bring fresh and wonderful opportunities.

Does anyone know what’s happening? Where’s Dan Brown when you need him? Where is all of this going? Who made that very cool Sistine Seagull thing happen? Who’s in charge?

Gregor has so many questions.

The party back in Vatican Square was great. Gregor was happy to watch it all on TV. He would have been happier if the Red Cards had sent him a personal invitation, but that didn’t happen. Gregor wonders if he offended someone along the way. He hopes it isn’t so. Anyway, Gregor did mail his absentee ballot in a timely manner, so at least his voice was heard.

It was, wasn’t it?

Gregor still has questions and doubts. He hopes Papa will listen.

How old are you really, Your Geezerness? This is an important issue. CNN says one thing, the Vatican PR machine says another. Gregor can’t tell how old you are without a good close-up. That fancy dress can hide many things, right? So, Papa, please tell Gregor your true age. He will keep it secret, promise. He hopes your Papa-ness can relate to all those young people who support you and the Red Cards. Gregor would hate to think you’re starting off with something less than full disclosure. That just wouldn’t work for Gregor.

Also, when you write back, please tell Gregor your real name. He’s confused by all those titles and second references. If your real name is John, or Joe, or Alphonse, please tell Gregor in your next letter. First names are good. Gregor is hiding nothing from you, Papa.

Are you ready for change? Gregor is ready for change. All of Gregor’s friends are ready for change. It’s a safe bet that most of your 1+ billion supporters are ready for something new. Why not give it a try? Do it early, do it often, make it count. That’s Gregor’s best advice. No more secrets, Papa. OK?

Gregor is still waiting for the Great Vatican Lottery to begin. He mentioned it in his letter to the last Papa. Maybe you haven’t seen it yet? Are you behind on your correspondence? Maybe some of those many assistants you have hanging around back there can help you catch up with unanswered letters. It’s important to stop hoarding, Papa. It’s good to share, you know? It’s also good to be a real communicator. Gregor always answers his mail.

Gregor hopes you will do some pruning back there. It looks like you are severely over-staffed at the Vatican. CNN showed it all and, now, it’s hard to deny. You have a ton of helper monkeys running around the Vatican. Is there so much to do back there? Couldn’t you spare some of those guys for more important work, like visiting the sick, ministering to the poor, that kind of thing? You’re looking a little top-heavy, Papa.

Did you need to get specially fitted for all those new dresses? Couldn’t you have recycled the dresses used by the last Papa? Maybe just a little alteration or two? After all, the last Papa wasn’t too hard on his clothes, was he? It wasn’t like he was out there pruning olive trees or working in the garden. Gregor thinks it would be good for the new Papa to institute an austerity program, just like all those 1+ billion followers have done. Remember your vows of chastity, poverty and obedience? Gregor remembers.

Jack

Gregor hopes you consider his earlier suggestion that you go green with the pope-mobile. He wants to introduce you to his good friend, Jack. Jack has offered to pull your pope-mobile for one year, free of charge, when you institute the Great Vatican Lottery. Papa, it would be a fine idea to take Jack up on the offer. Not only is it green, it would send a message to the world about your commitment to change. Jack is young and strong, so he won’t wear out too quickly. He can be your first foray into the wonders of biomass conservation. You know what they say about swamp gas, eh? Well, make that gas work for you.

Finally, Papa, please don’t forget Dan Brown. The last Papa apparently ignored him. Gregor mentioned this to your predecessor but received no reply. Remember that Dan has given you an enormous amount of free publicity over the years. He’s done a much better job than your usual PR folks, and it’s cost you nothing. Gregor understands that you may not want to make him a saint. But you should at least give him the props he has certainly earned. Open your heart, Papa. Be generous and you, too, will be rewarded.

Gregor hopes you do well, Papa. He will be keeping his eye on you, though. Gregor wants change. He hopes you’re the right guy for the job.

GregorPlease don’t forget to send an autographed picture, will you? Gregor would like one that shows you without that fancy dress. Gregor wants to know what you look like when you’re just tooling around the Vatican, out of sight of your public. You know what Gregor looks like, so why not reciprocate?

Gregor lives here.

Cardinals Go Conclaving, Gregor Rejoices

PopeWe’re gonna get a brand new Pope! Very soon. Maybe.

Gregor is so excited he can hardly breathe. The Geezers in Red are finally back home, all hanging around the Vatican, ready to slap us with a fresh Papa. The stage is set. The pumps are primed. The party is at hand.

This is a fine time to be Gregor. These are days of being absorbed in ancient ceremony, tasty secrets, crunchy rumors, CNN, and fellow old men trying to get it together for their 1+ billion supporters. It’s hard to think about anything else. Gregor has made reservations at every Italian restaurant he could find, just to be ready for the grand celebration.

Cardinals ConclaveGregor also wants to conclave. He doesn’t know what that really means but he definitely wants to give it a try. He’s been bugging his neighbors but they’re just ignoring him. No one out in the boonies wants to conclave, at least in public. Gregor has stopped wearing those fancy dresses like Papa and the Geezer Guys. People were laughing. But conclaving is a serious matter, isn’t it?

Gregor is still waiting for an answer from Papa. His letter must be somewhere in the archives by now. But he hasn’t given up hope. He knows the old guys have a lot of work to do. He understands that things move slowly at that age. He has sympathy. He’ll be patient for a while longer.

Wait for the smoke, they say. Gregor is waiting. Black is bad, white is good. Or is it the other way around? Gregor isn’t sure. It really doesn’t matter anyway. Some lucky winner will eventually get up there, high up on that grand balcony, and give us all the hand gesture thing. Gregor hopes there’s a good translator nearby. He wants the blessing, for sure, but he also wants to know what’s being blessed, what’s really going on back there. Gregor is stuck in English.

Fancy Cardinal DressWhen the great moment arrives, Gregor will celebrate along with the rest of the Universe. He will dance around his living room, pretending he’s back there in Vatican Square with Dan Brown. He will probably swoon. He’ll put on that fancy dress, one last time.

It’s coming soon. CNN told Gregor it would all come together quickly. The Red Cards in their fancy dresses are already in place. All the sumptuous food is ready. There’s probably lots of good wine from those secret cellars. All those tricky Swiss youngsters are polished and ready to party. Gregor hopes Dan is ready, too. If it wasn’t for Dan, Gregor would have no idea what’s going on back there.

He still doesn’t.

GregorBut none of this matters very much. A party is a party, even if you’re too old to know what’s going on. Got to get into the swing of things.

Wait for the smoke.

Dust off that bottle of Valpolicella and break out the salami. It’s gonna happen soon. It’s gonna be on TV. There’s going to be a brand new Papa strutting his stuff. Gregor can hardly wait. Who could?

It’s a renewed hope for Gregor and all the others who wait for, umm, something new and forward-looking.

Gregor lives here.

Jack the Yak

Oops. Someone at the front door.

Just a minute . . .

Oh, it’s Gregor’s old friend, Jack.

He just arrived from Nepal.

Gregor will explain later.

For now, just wait for the smoke.