Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Last View from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #20

The Norinko Ten and Their Demons
Psychological, and Otherwise

by Anthony Servante

A week ago, it rained. This meant that the homeless camps were facing eviction once again. As of this writing, 83 homeless people were reported encamped in the San Gabriel River bed. Complains from residents in the lower hills of Azusa overlooking the river have forced Sheriff's deputies to evict the illegal tenants of the concrete bed. As bulldozers razed the shanties, deputies estimated over 300 campers. Just over 100 were counted leaving the camp. About 100 were estimated to have left during the night when word of the eviction reached the encampment. About 70 were removed by City Emergency Vehicles and private ambulances. The rest of the estimated encampment were dead and removed in body bags. It took over 20 hours for the LA County Coroner's office to handle the removal of the corpses, but much of that time was spent determining the available facilities were capable of handling so many bodies. At least half of the bodies were delivered to the LA County Morgue on Mission Drive, behind the USC Medical Facility (AKA General Hospital).

After the riverbed was cleared and reporters and news crews packed up to leave, one hillside resident who complained almost daily to the Sheriff's office told reporters that maybe now the flying things would probably return to killing the neighborhood pets now that the main source of their attacks was evicted. No one asked the resident what she meant by "things". For some weird reason, the reporter from the local newspaper thought she meant the Sheriff's helicopters.

There was a secondary effect from the rain on the communities of the foothills: An infestation of dragonflies has covered the lush greenery of gardens, trees lining the streets, and the bushes used as walls to separate houses in Azuza, Duarte, Monrovia, and Arcadia. The dragonflies laid eggs in puddles left by the rainfall. Along with the hot weather, the showers provided the perfect environment for the dragonflies to spread in swarming numbers. But, it turns out, that's a good thing.

Dragonflies eat mosquitoes, and mosquitoes carry all sorts of sickness. I myself got bitten by a mosquito and my leg turned several shades of hue. It took two weeks, antibiotics, and steroidal ointment to shrink the itchy bite. Dragonflies also eat the pests that destroy the community's numerous citrus trees. But there is one drawback: The young dragonflies don't avoid humans; they crash right into pedestrians, windshields, and the windows of homes. The children are terrified of these strange-looking insects, which are usually uncommon to the communities. Flyers have arrived in the mail warning homeowners not to kill the dragonflies. Still, the streets are littered with their dead bodies. Beautifully colored insects with ten-inch wing spans are strewn about the side-streets, smashed into exotic designs on the asphalt. 

Which brings me back to the homeless. The dragonflies are literally rising from the multiple ponds left by the rains in the riverbed. When the Sheriff's department were moving out the river dwellers, the deputies found the majority of shanties had flypaper hanging in their makeshift homes, pest-strips covered end-to-end with dragonflies. Some deputies were saying that the homeless were eating them. No proof that this practice was taking place; still the rumors spread, and a new Urban Legend was born.

Then came the new rumor that some dragonflies were as big as a bird, and even the larger birds were not attacking them. The locals, a combination of Mexican-Americans, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Cuban, were in agreement that this dragonfly infestation was not beneficial at all, but was in fact a sign of something evil. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard people on the bus telling their children that the dragonflies attack children and aim for the eyes. No wonder the kids are scared of the harmless insects. 

The Vietnamese were the first to bring up the connection of the flying insects to the demons of Diyu, a correlation that my research could not corroborate. At times, one neighbor always tries to top his neighbor's account of the dangers of the dragonflies by exaggerating the risks of the flying insects. I tried to explain that flyers are arriving in the mail that detail the benefits of the dragonflies, but the exaggerators wave me off. 

When I told Priest Horaguchi about the dragonfly infestation and the superstitions of my neighbors, he did not laugh. He told me that the arrival of the insects is timely, that in Buddhist belief, each dragonfly is a soul that travels the Earth when Diyu, the Buddhist Hell, is overcrowded. Horaguchi further explained that over the last year, many, many souls have been taken to Diyu by the demons who have escaped due to our intrusion into their space. I told him that as a Catholic, and he as a Buddhist, our definitions of "demons" and "souls" were radically different. He agreed, but explained that the trauma was the same.

For instance, a Catholic alcoholic could turn to Alcoholics Anonymous for guidance, but not so a Buddhist alcoholic. One of the AA's 12 steps includes accepting a "greater power" over one's self. For a Catholic, that would most likely be God. For a Buddhist, however, such a power is within oneself, and this power grows each time one reincarnates. We try the best we can in this life, and then try again in the next, but with different circumstances. As an alcoholic in the last life, one (upon death) would be taken to Diyu and assigned to the appropriate level for punishment for our drinking problems and the problems we inflicted on others for our drinking. Once our punishment is meted out, we are ready to be reincarnated. The appropriate "demon" metes out the punishment; the creature from our level in Diyu makes sure that we are not reborn an alcoholic again. This doesn't mean we are perfect. It means we grew a bit spiritually. And with each rebirth, we grow some more, hopefully till we are perfect or we reach that state called Nirvana, when we are released from the cycle of death and rebirth. For Buddhists, Hell is a good bad place. It is better than AA.

Trauma for Buddhists is physical. Even nightmares, the remnants of trauma, are physical. Therapy treats the physical, not the mental. For Catholics, I believe, Horaguchi continued, trauma is mental and manifests itself with physical symptoms. You take pills. We make pajamas. Both treat the nightmares, but the drugs avoid confrontation while the pajamas face it head on. We deal directly with the demon behind the nightmares, in essence, the demon from our last reincarnation still hounding us with punishment. Or it could be the demon from the next level of our visit to Diyu preparing us for our next trial of torture. For Catholics, the demons lead you to Hell; for Buddhists, they prepare us for our passage to Nirvana. The suffering, the nightmares, the trauma is transitory but necessary. It's never personal. Catholic demons are evil and exist to create more evil. Your trauma as seen through Catholic eyes must seem evil; our group's traumas as seen through Buddhist eyes is medicine for our sick soul for a healthier new life.

But sometimes when we are stuck between two beliefs, two cultures, as we are when we have one foot in Hell and one in Diyu, we sometimes get caught in a loop. There are Buddhists who see demons as evil, but they are wrong to believe such. When we are caught between two reincarnations, we sometimes drag our demon out with us from death to life. The nightmares, the trauma, are the manifestation of the demons.

When we asked you to attend our "Buddhist" therapy sessions, we wanted you to learn to believe in a positive approach to your nightmares. Although you liked the painting approach, you've avoided the pajama therapy. Sure it's got a silly name, I admit that, but it's nonetheless therapy. We want to remove the demon from your nightmares, not the Catholic demons, but the Buddhist demons. And if this all sounds crazy, well don't forget that the AA provides therapy to a "higher power". How crazy is that? We want you to find your own higher "self". The trauma is part of you; just as the demon is a part of you. The cure and healing are also within you. When you reincarnate, you are given an opportunity to improve your lot in life. Think of this life as the reincarnation of the last. You are improving your life now, bettering yourself compared to your last life. The demon can be viewed as your conscience.

I said, But what about the elephant in the room? People have died.

He answered, No, they haven't. They've been reincarnated. The demons don't kill. They escort you to the next life.

I responded, Yeah, but they weren't ready to go. Their trip was mandatory. How can you defend the additional  trauma inflicted on you on your journey to Diyu?

He said, No one is ever ready. "Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me." It is not trauma. It is a cleansing of your old life so that you can be ready for the next life, to be in a better frame of mind and body. It is a transition.

I answered, With all due respect to Ms. Dickenson, they're taken to a waiting room where they are tortured.

He wasn't swayed: To a certain extent. But you are confusing Catholic "torture" with Buddhist preparation. Diyu is not punishment. It is strict preparation, just as athletes have strict regimens of exercise to compete in their sport. Diyu is a spiritual regimen to compete in your new life.

I had to ask, Then why is someone lying in coma, half dead, half alive?

He sighed, To quote your Church: God works in mysterious ways. Buddhism deals with life and death. It doesn't have answers for the in-between. That's the time for man, for doctors, for therapy. Each of The Ten in our group has a different demon to deal with. It's a matter of "self". Each of us must deal with the transitions differently. I cannot address matters where life and death have not been decided. We're not talking about pulling the plug here. We are talking about Buddhism and Catholicism. 

When you say "The Ten", do you mean the Norinko Ten? I asked, even though I knew the answer. But Horaguchi answered me anyhow.

Yes, the members of our group make up The Ten. And their Demons. With you that makes eleven, I guess. The source of the trauma is the demon from the level of punishment in Diyu based on your last death. I mean, you don't have to believe all this. We aren't looking to convert you to Buddhism. But if you understand how your trauma can be positive in the most spiritual sense, maybe you can learn to live with it better. For us, it's about readying ourselves for our next carnation. For you, it's about gaining a healthy perspective on this life in the here and now. We're very big on the here and now. We're surrounded by death, but so too are we surrounded by life. Let me email you a chart I made of The Ten. Read it with a grain of salt if you must. Or feel free to make a Catholic chart of The Ten if you feel that will provide for comfort for the traumatized. When next we talk, we can perhaps readdress "trauma" in a new light.

I answered, I'll get back to you. Please send me that chart. I do plan to put it on my blog, you know.

He laughed, Of course you are.

And there our conversation ended. The email arrived about twenty minutes later. I felt chills when I read it. How could someone believe this? Because they're Buddhist, I answered under my breath. I mean, how many people got chills and felt terror when they first saw the movie "The Exorcist". Anyway, here's the chart for my readers. As Priest Horaguchi advises, Read it with a grain of salt. And I might add, And neither defend nor deny. Understand, if you can.

The Chart

This is the research of Priest Horaguchi

Norinko  - Yuan Gui (ghost with grievance)—spirits of persons who died wrongful deaths. These ghosts can neither rest in peace nor go for reincarnation. They roam the world of the living as depressed and restless spirits who constantly seek to have their grievances redressed. In some tales, these ghosts approach living people and attempt to communicate with them to lead them to clues or pieces of evidence which point out that they died wrongful deaths. The living people then try to help them clear their names or otherwise ensure that justice is served.

Suzue  - Yuan Gui

Beniko  - Yuan Gui

Miriam Hernandez - Di fu ling (Earthbound Spirit)—refers to ghosts who are bound to certain locations on Earth, such as their place of burial or a place they had a strong attachment to when they were alive.

Evelyn Mitchell - Gui po (Old Woman Ghost)—takes the form of a peaceful and friendly old woman. They may be the spirits of maids who used to work as servants in rich families. They return to help their masters with housekeeping matters or take care of young children and babies. However, there are also evil gui pos with disgusting and violent appearances.

Deputy Steve Baker - Wuchang Gui (Ghost of Impermanence). Depending on the person it encounters, the Wuchang Gui can appear as either a fortune deity who rewards the person for doing good deeds or a malevolent deity who punishes the person for committing evil.

Detective Jian “Joe” Wu - Jian (Ghost of a Ghost)—Ghosts who cannot reincarnate. Ghosts who can reincarnate are terrified of Jians.

W. Chris Dubois - E gui (Hungry Ghost)—These hungry ghosts consume anything, including excreted waste and rotten flesh.

Martin Palomina - Jiangshi (Vampire Ghost)—reanimated corpse who feeds off the living.

Elizabeth Johns - Zhi ren (Paper Person)—dolls made from paper which are burnt as offerings to the dead to become the deceased's servants. These dolls are not exactly spirits by themselves, but they can do the bidding of their deceased masters. 

What role do these demons play in trauma of so many of our group?

The ancestors of the Hanasaki family were workers on the railroad. The deaths of so many Asians during the Railroad worker riots and nitroglycerin accidents caused many corpses not receiving proper burial rites. It is important to understand these rites to see how the Buddhist railway workers believed that without a proper burial, that they would not be reincarnated. In fact, they believed that they'd be cursed to wander the realm between life and death forever until they received a proper burial.

Mahayana traditions dictate a burial in a cave where the corpse left for birds to eat. The remains are then buried. This was not possible with a corpse. The Chinese and Japanese workers were blown to tiny bits by the explosions of the nitro deep in the mountain passes; not only ripped apart but buried in the cave-ins that followed. The caves, which are now freeway and train tunnels, are literally built with wooden beams and concrete mixed with the blood of the Asians.

The Levels of Diyu (Narakas)
  1. Hahava—punishment by lamentation and weeping from the cold.
  2. Raurava—punishment by screaming to escape the fiery floor
  3. Maharaurava—like Raurava, but animals and birds devour your flesh (note the common theme of being devoured by birds in burial rites and punishment).
  4. Avici—eternal hell (not Purgatory); reasons to be sent to Avici: Intentionally murdering one's father, mother, an Arhat (enlightened being), shedding the blood of a Buddhist, creating a schism within the Sangha.

And here we take our leave. With a grain of salt, I find that our trauma and therapy series has come down to superstitions and religious faith. We found that such beliefs had little permanent influence on trauma, at times even having a negative effect on long term recovery. Still, it does work for some, just not enough. But who am I to say what is enough. My brother had the philosophy in the classroom that if he could just reach one of his many students, then he has succeeded as a teacher. With this series, I hoped I have reached more than one. 

I, for one, have learned to live with the daily burden of remembering the deaths of the people I sought to help. Hearing in the news of death caused by bad weather, homelessness, or the Will of God, is always a reminder of the helplessness one feels when trying to help people people who can't be helped. Lifeguards are trained not to try to save a panicking drowning person lest he be pulled down with the panicker; they have to wait till the person is to tired to struggle and then carry the swimmer to safety while they are too weak to fight the lifeguard. For me, I waited for these people who needed my help, but I waited till they couldn't drag me down with them. That was my mistake. I waited too long. They drowned before I could reach them, or rather, they died before I could provide the assistance they needed. 

I don't count the hundreds, no, thousands I have helped over the years. I always count the ones I didn't save. Not couldn't. Didn't. It feels worse when friends and family tell me, But look at all the people you've helped over the years. It doesn't help, and I've isolated myself from my friends and family so that I wouldn't have to hear it anymore. I came to Facebook and started a blog, two faceless social entities where I could disappear. Thanks to the Trauma & Therapy series, I've at least learned to connect with flesh and blood people again. And I owe it to these people in my therapy group to try to help The Ten, especially a little girl whose friends believe may one day wake from her coma. 

That's my recovery, my day to day life with trauma--learning to help people again the way I used to. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Update 15

Trauma & Therapy

Pajama Therapy
Flight of the Second Dream Drifter

 as Told to Anthony Servante

Design of pajamas for Bridget, who remains in a coma.
Drawing by Norie.

I hate to wake up, often sleeping for up to 12 hours a day. I am not tired. I am not depressed. I am not hungover from drink or drugs. I simply do not wish to leave my dreams. They seem so important, and I don't mean as a sleep device; no, I mean important in the stories they tell, the plot-lines that I get caught up in. I want to get to the ending of the story. And each morning, each dream is different, yet the stories are real, real enough to involve me so much that I want to stay there longer than I have to. I know that I can wake up, have some coffee, and start my day, but the story of the dream is only in the second act. And I'm aware of that. I know I have to stick around till the third and final act roll around. But it never does.

This new type of dreaming has replaced the nightmares I used to have when I was taking anti-anxiety pills and pain killers for my bad back. The dreams have become more cohesive. They unfold in the same manner that my writing unfolds. I am one step behind the action as I write it, for this action will lead me to the next action that needs to be written. At most, when I write, I know only the ending of the story or only the beginning. The story unfolds on its own. Now my dreams unfold on their own. I can only try to keep up. But that requires time, which in turn means extra sleep, extra time in bed.

Only when I know that I am chasing a dragon, so to speak, a story without ending, do I wake up to start my day. But that requires about three extra hours of sleep. Before, I slept on average 7 to 9 hours a day; now it is 10 to 12 hours, with those three extra hours waiting for the ending to the story in the dream.

Long ago, I would often finish these dreams and they in turn would become short stories or poems. The dreams would end. And the best dreams were the fever sleep dreams; they were complexly structured plots with vivid characters. So last week when I was sick with a mild flu, the fever dreams returned, only this time they didn't end, but the writer in me began to chase them. And chase them. And chase them. It's been over a month and I still hope to complete one dream story.

But I know that's like an addict saying that today is my last fix or my last cigarette. I fear sleeping 12 to 15 hours a night in search of that final fix. Today I slept 12 hours. I missed the first half of the football game that I wanted to see. I was awake in time to see it, but, instead of getting up, I turned over and went back to sleep. I forced myself up at 2:30 pm. I had cobwebs in my mind and dried tears in the corners of my eyes. I splashed cold water in my face, drank some hot coffee, and sat down to watch the game.

I don't even remember a single bit from the dream. That's what happens when they don't end. They turn to vapor and rise.

With the weather turning cold after the shortest Summer on record in the San Gabriel Valley mountainside, I can add an extra blanket and wear my Autumn Jammies. That's when I remembered the glove the girls made for me. Tonight I'll wear the pajama glove shaped like a wing of a bird. I contacted Norie and asked about the pajamas (since I'm not attending the Pajama Therapy sessions at the temple). She told me that she saw the pictures that I put in the last update and sent me three drawings that she made and two by Suzie.

Design of pajamas for Norie.
Drawing by Norie.

Design of pajamas for Suzie (rejected by Suzie).
Drawing by Norie.

Design #1 of pajamas for Suzie.
Drawing by Suzie.

Design #2 of pajamas for Suzie (selected by Suzie).
Drawing by Suzie.

Then Norie told me about Suzie's dream with the pajamas that she selected (see above), and that's what brings us here today for this update. In our last update, Norie shared her dream with us while wearing her Plumage Pvnk Pajamas (see above), designed to fight off nightmares. Now we shall hear from Suzie.

Anyway, I do want to wrap up this last "therapy" series before moving on to the Horror Philosophy essays. So, without further ado, let's get to Suzie's therapy session with her new Plumage Pvnk Pajamas.

Suzie's Account 
I am afraid to sleep. I am wearing the pajamas that my mother made for me. They are soft, but my body slides around when I turn on my side. My mother caresses my hand and hums a song familiar to me since I was a toddler. A single candle lights the small bedroom. The window is cracked open. An ocean breeze moves the curtains and the flame flickers. I adjust my cap shaped like the head of a swan. I didn't have the heart to tell my mother that it looks more like a duck, kind of like Norie's drawing that she made for me. That looks like a duck too. A fat duck.

I am cold. I was going to ask my mother to close the window, but she is gone. I get up to close it myself. The window is wide open. The curtains are gone. I float out the window. I am flying over houses. There is the house of our English teacher. She is dead. There is the house of the school bus driver. She is dead, too. There is the house of the janitor from the school; the lights are on in every window. He is alive, but he is afraid of the dark. There is the house of the Detective. He is dead.

I am tired of counting the dead people, so I turn south, toward the ocean. I am being followed. I am afraid to fly over the water, so I turn into the freeway tunnel. It is dark. There are no cars. Then there is light. Red light. Moving light. Flickering. The followers tricked me into coming in here. They get closer to me. I hear their wings. I hear their beaks clacking. I hear their voices, half human, half squawking. They want me to turn around. I am flying toward a black wall of rock and shadow.

Norie is there. She is flying toward me. The flapping wings snap with fury. The followers see her. They seem afraid. Then I see large crows with human legs and human arms flapping their wings in long spreads to glide silently up behind Norie. I try to warn her, but my arms must operate the wings, so I cannot wave to her, and my voice is choked by fear, dry fear, so I cannot call to her. I see Norie's eyes lock with mine. She sees the followers catching up to me as I see the crows catching up to her.

The pajamas don't work.

I open my eyes. My mother is shaking me awake. She takes me in her arms. She is crying. I am trying to scream, but my throat is so dry, I cannot make a sound, only little rasps and coughs. Something warm is spreading down my chin, down on to my pajamas.

It is blood.

Editor's Note: I received the above dream description in an email. The entire piece was in one block paragraph. With permission from the parents of Suzie, I broke the block into smaller paragraphs with spaces between paragraphs. I arranged the writing in such a way to add "drama" to the piece. I also want to point out that because the Pajama Therapy is being conducted on minors, I have gotten permission from the parents to write these updates about Norie and Suzie, and to some extent, Bridget, who remains bedridden, but whom we address in these updates. I'm glad that Norie and Suzie choose to read my updates to their friend, although, in a coma, she may not even hear the words. Still, there is always hope. 
Anthony Servante

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Views from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #19

Let Ex = Ex:
Explaining Ignorance, Long Hand

by Anthony Servante

I saw this puzzle on YouTube, and it bothered me. "Solve for "X = 0 + 0". Show all your steps to reach your result(s)". Without doing any math, I see that the answer is zero based on what I see. I do not understand showing your "steps" for a conclusion that you can arrive at in the same way that I calculate my shopping bill based on an item by item estimation as I fill my shopping cart. Why show my "steps" to estimate my grocery bill? I know how much money I will need when I reach the cash register.

And that's what gets me. "Steps". Often, if you follow steps, you will find that there is more than one answer. How can I explain this to my grocer? I have three solutions to how much I owe you for this cart of groceries, and I choose the lowest amount to pay. Life doesn't work like this, but advanced math teaches us to think in terms of multiple approaches and multiple answers to a problem. This may work for NASA engineers in training, but for the simple shopper like me, it's not applicable. I don't need to know what X equals to figure my grocery account.

Sometimes "steps" take us outside our own reality. And I'm not talking quantum physics. Let me tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean.

There once was a little girl named Jill. She was helping her mother to cook some beans, which were in a great pot boiling and sending up an aromatic vapor. Her mother to the girl that she needed to run to the store for some garlic and to stir the beans every few minutes and to cover the pot with the lid when she was done stirring. As her mother grabbed her car keys and readied to exit the back door, she reminded her daughter to cover the beans or else the family would fall ill.

Although Jill understood that to leave the beans uncovered could result in tainting the food, she proceeded to text her friend after stirring the beans but forgetting to cover them. When she heard her mon's car pull into the driveway, the little girl quickly covered the beans and no one was the wiser. That evening, hours after eating the beans, Jill, her brother, mother and fatther, all fell ill. Their stomachs cramped, they vomited and evacuated their bowels into the night. When Jill's mother finally gathered herself enough to speak, she berated Jill for not covering the beans, for these symptoms of food poisoning betrayed the little girl's disastrous carelessness. The girl was punished severely. 

As Jill grew into adulthood, becoming a mother herself, she remembered both the lesson of the beans and the punishment that followed when the lesson was not obeyed. Jill thus taught her own little daughter to cover the beans while they boil on the stove-top. One day, Jill happened into the kitchen while her daughter texted on her phone, leaving the beans uncovered. In a rage, she slapped her daughter. Would you have us all ill? she screamed at the shocked girl. How? asked the girl in tears. How would we get sick? Jill quickly replied, The beans go bad when they are not covered. How? her daughter wanted to know as her tears fell. But Jill had no answer save for, We just will, so do as you're told. The girl went running to her bedroom as Jill contemplated the question, "How?"

Jill called her old mother on the phone and reminded her of the time when the family got sick from eating the bad beans that she did not cover. Oh, yes, said the mother, I remember that. Jill asked, How? Her mother answered, We lived in a very old house. We were not very fortunate with our wages back then. The paint in the kitchen was crack and peeling with age. If we didn't cover the beans, the vapor from the boiling water would rise, loosen the paint that would then drop into the beans, melt and add lead-poison to our food. We had to mind the paint chips over the stove. We were poisoned that night, but we were lucky that only a small piece of paint fell into the pot or else we could have died. 

And thus Jill learned the secret of the beans. It wasn't the cover. It was the poison paint chips. What she had taught her own daughter was that the cover prevented the illness, for in their new modern house, there was no paint problem. Then she wondered why she had slapped her daughter. And she further wondered what would have happened if her daughter grew up, had a daughter of her own, and spread the tradition of covering the beans into the next generation, and her daughter's daughter carrying it into the next, and how many generations would have gone by before someone asked, "How?" Then she wondered how many other worthless outdated groundless traditions she'd been passing along to the next generation because she herself never asked, "How?" 

This story of Jill is an example of the lies we believe and the false truths that run our lives. I still remember being told not to go outside after taking a shower or I would get sick. Or not to go swimming after eating. Or not to step on the cold floor with bare feet lest you catch a cold. And it doesn't matter the culture, for every one has these rituals and beliefs based on a single incident, and even though that incident no longer exists in its original form, we still behave as if the action causes the illness, not the circumstances. For Jill, the beans needed to be covered or the family risked being poisoned by lead paint chips. But only in that first instance. That instance no longer existed when Jill became a mother and moved into a new home. Yet she slapped her daughter as if the situation were the same as when she was a child herself. 

And you don't have to be an adult to understand when you believe a traditional lie; children should and must ask, "How?" or "Why?" And the answer must be satisfactory, for often we are punished for a danger or belief that no longer has validity. We must even risk punishment for asking How? and Why? because many times the answer may be, Because I say so, that's why!

In my experience with trauma, I've carried such a belief for years. But, in my case, I didn't want to know why. It wasn't until I had the intervention at the Santa Monica Temple that I was confronted with the false belief. The danger of the original event no longer exists, not for me anyway. This is why it has become important for me to lend my help to these three girls for whom the danger is still perceived to be real. Their dreams are a real threat. There is only one option. Help.

"Let X = X". (Laurie Anderson).

Monday, September 23, 2019

Update 14

Trauma & Therapy

Pajama Therapy
First Flight of the Dream Drifter

 as Told to Anthony Servante

From left to right: Bridget, Norinko, & Suzie
Thanks to Jerry Langdon for the rendition of a selfie taken 
by Norinko a week before her abduction.

Note: Over the past few weeks, I've come to realize what caused my trauma. Because of my blog, my behavior, and my interference with a police investigation last August 2018, I caused two girls (Bridget and Suzie, see above) to be threatened by the abductors who kidnapped Norinko. Also during my interference, Norinko's father, Torinko, was declared missing by police. It is believed that he confronted the abductors and was attacked. The Santa Monica Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff's division, continue to search for Mr. Hanasaki. These matters are available on public record and filling out a simple FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) form can gain you access to these records. I sent for my copy to read the reports and help me fill in missing gaps in my memory. You see, even though I know what caused my memory loss, that doesn't mean I remember everything. I'm still working to find my lost memories in public records, personal accounts from my therapy group, and a good night's sleep.

Which brings us back to Pajama Therapy, a cross between Dream Therapy and Arts and Crafts Therapy. I've included a series of drawings that I've collected over the years that have been sent to me to help me remember the gaps in my memory. Even though I've avoided facing my trauma head on, I've always found these images haunting and familiar. And as we enter the second phase of PJ Therapy, I thought I'd share these images. These are not my property and use them once only with this update to illustrate the echoes of my nightmares and the models for Norie's Plumage Pvnk pajamas. 

Although I am tempted to research this dream procedure we are trying. I'd rather just do it for the sake of doing it. No therapy goals. The goal is simply going through the routine. Come what may. Like a game of hide and seek. But looking for things that we know are hiding but we won't know what things. Only by playing the game do we stand a chance of finding them. Oddly, I have the feeling that they know we are looking for them. But they welcome it, for it's a chance to meet up with old friends. If that's what you can call them.

So I leave the narrative of Pajama Therapy to it'd participants. I'll serve as the narrator. I, myself, have not worn my glove to sleep. Too warm. Well, let's be honrst. Too scared. But just like working up the courage to get that flu shot I fear, I'll let my courage build while Norie and Suzie try out their dream trips.

Damn. I know they're only dreams, but the damn content brings back long dormant memories. Remember, for me, these memories were buried in a fog. Now they stare me in the face. Just like one of Suzie's bird faced men. Only mine appear in waking hours. Who knows what will appear in dream now that I know what I caused. Maybe I'll start wearing the glove this weekend.

The reading for Bridget went well, I hear. Horaguvhi read my words. Now we have a plot to work into her thoughts, if indeed comatose patients think and dream. I thing Norinko and Suzie are doing it more for themselves to keep their friend in the loop. That's fine by me. I can live with this. It's not as if we were living such great lives. So we live through the imagination of a sleeping girl and pretend that she's in on the plot with us. We're keeping this plot to me, SaraH, and Bridget's immediate family. I don't even think Bridget's doctor knows. I can live with that too.

The reading for Bridget went well, I hear. Horaguchi read my words. Now we have a plot to work into her thoughts, if indeed comatose patients think and dream. I think Norie and Suzie believe that Bridget does hear on some level, though doctors don't encourage this thinking. But considering what kind of trauma they've experienced (nay, we've experienced), we don't understand this kind of trauma. For all we know, she does dream in much the same way Norie, Suzie, and I dream--halfway between the cavern and halfway between the normal world. That thinking is fine by me. I can live with this.

Over the years I have collected various examples of Plumage Pvnks Pajamas as envisioned by readers. These are not my drawings, and I use them one time only under the Fair Use Doctrine. Since the real pajamas that Norie, Suzie, and their family have designed cannot be shared on this post, I will only use these examples to approximate what could have been had these samplings had been used. 

The Plumage Pvnk pajamas have been made, one pair for Norie, a Raven, one for Suzie, a Swan, and one for Bridget, a Peacock. I have been given a glove made from the leftover material (It has cloth feathers, each dyed a different color). Thanks for not expecting me to wear a pair of bird pajamas to bed. To try out the PJs, Suzie volunteered to go first. She wore the PJs to bed on September 25th, a Wednesday. It reminded me that Wednesday's Child is full of woe. She really believes that the PJs will be part of her dress in the dream. The day after her test run, she emailed me this account.

Dear Professor Servante,
I went to bed at 9:00 P.M. I kept looking for at the clock. It was just past ten the last time I checked the time. So I must have fallen asleep between ten and eleven. In my dream, I was asleep on my bed checking the clock. It read 9:00 P.M. But I knew that couldn't be right. I wasn't sure, but I was confident that I was asleep. But I couldn't tell if this was a dream. I sat up in bed. My mom was asleep in a seat next to me. She must have come in after I'd fallen asleep. I checked my pajamas. They were the bird PJs. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. Then the scenery changed.

I was in the cavern. Quickly, I closed my eyes and covered them with my hands. This is how I survived in the cavern. I never looked around. I prayed in darkness. But then I could see my surroundings. My hands were down by my sides, inside the sleeves where our moms had sewn the wings. Several strange looking men with bird faces were looking at me. I wondered if they'd been looking at me all the time while I had my eyes closed. The thought scared me. It made me feel that they've been looking at me all this time since we left the cavern, looking at me in dream. When they talked to each other, they cooed like pigeons with bad colds. They approached me. I spread my wings. They laughed.

Then the light from the fires reflected off the shiny material. I glowed. The bird faced men backed up a step. I put my hoodie with the bird head on. They stopped laughing. They seemed puzzled. They looked at each other, and then they rushed at me all at once.

I awoke. My mother was calming me. She stroked my face softly and told me it was only a dream. For no reason, I started to cry. My mom held me till I fell asleep. I only had normal dreams the rest of the night.

After Norinko heard Suzie's account on September 26th, it was her turn to try her sleep costume. Norie instructed Suzie to go to sleep at 9:00 P.M. again and that she'd do the same. Norie called me to tell me her account. I am paraphrasing her words as best I can. And for the record, I did edit Suzie's account for grammatical clarity; I did not change the events, only the language to help keep it clear. Old habit from an old teacher. Suzie was fine with my edits.

Norinko's account will be published in Update 15 as soon as I receive the email with her report.

Thank you for visiting the blog and following the Trauma & Therapy series.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Views from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #18

The Cost of Remembering:
A Noble Failure

by Anthony Servante

My earliest memory of Yuan Gui
Thanks to Jerry Langdon for the rendition

My memory returned so casually that I'm embarrassed to have made such a big deal about it for over a year. I was tempted to call my ex-Shrink to thank her for the drugs; I was tempted to thank the Painting Therapy group for their intervention. But, ironically, it was the Pajama Therapy that snapped the past back to the present. I remembered all the Buddhist teachings of Priest Horaguchi; I remember being one of the volunteers who helped search for the missing girls, Norinko, Suzie, and Bridget. I remember blaming myself for Bridget slipping into a coma. I blamed myself for arriving too late to shield the girls from victimization from their captors, who were never caught. Somehow, I retreated from the memories that reminded me of that night. I deleted the newspaper articles that I was sent about how the girls had made it home safely. Except for Bridget. I can only imagine what happened to that young girl in that cavern in the tunnel.

The Shrink was the right person to help me justify the vague recollections of that night. She convinced me that it was all part of my imagination, that the reality was best locked away in a deep place. The drugs only helped me to bury the denial deeper. But what of this "reality"? How much is my denial and how much is pure fantasy? I may never know. However, I do remember. Something. All the dots connected all at once. And I realized that I was not the victim. These girls were. I was the one who just wanted to forget, so I buried the memory by ignoring these people for over a year, by justifying the burial with visits to a Shrink, a blog series about Trauma, and a fantasy about Buddhist lore--a fantasy that was easy to accept because it emerged in dreams, when I could not keep it buried, but where I could keep it vague and diluted with drugs.

Forgive me, those Trauma sufferers who have come to my blog to learn from this coward. I will try to make up for my denial of my old friends by going along with the girls and their plan help snap Bridget from her long sleep just as they helped snap me out of my long denial.

I have written the following just as the girls asked me to. But let me be clear: I do remember that night, and I do remember why I forgot the people and events of that night. I just need to go along with the plan. These words that follow will be read to Bridget at her bedside, just as Norie has read her the updates of my blog as they've gone live. For the sake of keeping the quality of dream alive for their friend stuck in a world of dream, I have written this portion of the Pajama Therapy in the Views from a Troubled Mind column, in order to distinguish it from the clinical aspects of the Trauma & Therapy series. This way I can bend my memories a bit to fit the plan.

As usual, fact and fantasy are mixed here. May these words serve their purpose and reach this troubled girl trapped in sleep. Only the following words from here one will be read for Bridget. This introduction is for my readers only. Although I do remember these people and the words of Priest Horaguchi, the events of that night last August 2018 have been relayed to me by accounts from Horaguchi, Norie, and Suzie. I have fictionalized the rest for the sake of the plan. Again, forgive me for using my trauma to bring attention to myself. From here on in, I'm concentrating my attention of Norie, Suzie, and Bridget.

Thank you for understanding.
Anthony Servante

The Account of August 2018
SaraH came to my home and woke me up. She knew that I may not attend the Sunday Temple therapy after reading my Facebook post about football (even though I did plan to attend the therapy tomorrow, September 15th). She asked that I go with her to the Temple to meet with Horaguchi, Norie, Suz, and the girls' parents. It wouldn't take but a few hours. No problem. 

When we arrived at the temple, the priest, Norinko, her mom, Suzie and her mom and dad, were waiting. 

Simply put, they wanted me to know that the pajamas were ready. You could have emailed me that info, I told them. We wanted your in-person opinion, said Horaguchi. Look, I said, I grew up Catholic. We believe in angels and demons, heaven and hell, good and bad. Like in The Exorcist. So you'll forgive me if your beliefs fall short of my faith. What little I know about Buddhism I learned here, from you, I said, pointing to Horaguchi, Norie, and Suz. Let's see, there is this big place called Diyu, where spirits are held till a body becomes available to be reincarnated in. There are levels to Diyu, each level housing people based on their sins, with one level for the sin-free. Very Dante-esque. If I also remember correctly, according to Bridget, Yuan Gui is the Demon who places the spirits into their prospective levels (aka Narakas):

  1. Hahava—where the spirits suffer in lamentation and weeping from the cold.
  2. Raurava—where spirits writhe while screaming to escape the fiery floor
  3. Maharaurava—like Raurava, but where animals and birds devour your flesh, which grows back only to be devoured again and again
  4. Avici—This is eternal hell (not like Purgatory) where spirits remain forever, never to be reincarnated; spirits of murderers who killed their parents, priests, or any holy person, are sent to Avici: 
I remember this. Just like I remember the Bible's version of hell. Every religion has a version of hell. Only with Buddhists, you add reincarnation to the life-death equation. You get to try again and again to get life right. Then you work your way up the levels of Diyu till you spend less time there and more time in your new bodies. 

I noticed they were all smiling as I wrapped up my summary. Horaguchi asked, Who told you this? Bridget, I said. You remember Beniko? asked Norie. Of course, sassy little Bridget, your friend, yours and Susue's friend. And you remember our real names? Suz said. Why shouldn't I? Because you have amnesia. Or did you forget? 

Norie spoke to SaraH, who nodded in agreement. Come on, SaraH told me, and we walked out into the parking lot with the others. SaraH and I got into her little car. The rest of the group climbed into Horaguchi's van. Isn't that the van we used to fan Norie? I asked. Yes. The van. Now listen, she said. We're going to Bridget's home. This will be the first time since she went into a coma that you've been in her presence. Don't flip out when you see her. She's lost a lot of weight. She's a shell of that sassy girl you're starting to remember. Her parents will be there. Follow their lead. They're expecting us, but mainly they're expecting you. God, I hope this works. 

It took us about twenty minutes to reach Bridget's home. Her parents were waiting for us on the porch. I remembered them. They bowed and led me into their daughter's bedroom. Poor little Bridget was skeletal. She had tubes feeding her. She looked asleep. Horaguchi and the others waited in the front room. Only I, along with her parents, sat by Bridget's bed. I remembered her as she once was. I didn't recognize this girl on the bed. Talk to her, her mother told me. Her father nodded agreeably, tears in his eyes. I wanted to ask, What should I say? But I knew what to say.

I know what you've been through. You were in Raurava. You were punished. The cops were punished. Norie and Suzie were on the punishment-free level. It's time for you to wake up. To come home. You're still there, aren't you? You're home. And not home. Do you dream? Of course you do. I do, too. We all do. Diyu is still in us. It followed us out. Death followed us out. Yuan Gui. E Gui, Gui Po, Zhi Ren,--and more. One for each of us who exited the cavern. In sleep, they awaken in dream, and while we sleep, they fly the cities and claim new spirits for Diyu, and when we wake, they return to sleep in their cocoon, our real memories spun into lies and false memories. I understand now. The powerful bird-like demons led by Yuan Gui are loose. We set them free when we escaped. 

And only we can send them back. But for that we need you, Beniko. I touched her hand. It was cold. I waited a moment. Nothing. I returned to the front room while Bridget's parents saw to their daughter. 

Do you remember? asked Horaguchi. I said what I hoped would wake her. It didn't work. Still, when you try your Pajama Therapy, Bridget should also be given a pair. Make hers a Phoenix. Norie's mom nodded yes. When will you try to confront you dream demons? Next Saturday, said Norie. We'll do it here. Will you be here? I said yes without hesitation. Whatever beliefs little Bridget had, we'd go along with them. That's another thing I remembered. When Suzie and Bridget first found me, I gave them hope. Somehow, they were looking to me again for direction. 

You know, I said, I don't believe any of this, right? That's okay, said Horaguchi. As long as you remember, that's all that matters. 

When SaraH dropped me off at home, I entered the house, turned on the UCLA-Oklahoma football game, and all thoughts of Catholic and Buddhist beliefs left my thoughts. Only Yuan Gui remained. The half-man, half-bird creature that takes person and animal alike from this Earthly plane. And I wasn't one bit scared. After one year of being scared, I remembered why. Flight or fight? It was time to choose. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Update 13

Trauma & Therapy

Pajama Therapy
The Reality of Nightmares

Old drawing of the Santa Monica freeway tunnel. Note the birds and ocean.

Another drawing of the tunnel. Note the lights in the tunnel. I forgot about that detail.

Today was the last Sunday for drawing. Apparently, the therapy was never meant to focus solely of painting. It was but one mean of delving into our dreams. And nightmares. Since I covered "dreams" in a previous update, I felt that I was reverting to old topics, but it was pointed out to me that all therapy is recycled, and its ultimate goal is to peel back the layers of denial that wall up our trauma.

Yeah, but Pajama Therapy??

Well, it was explained to me, it's not that cut and dried. This should really be called Design Therapy. It includes drawing and creative thinking. Since we all here in the group suffer from nightmares by night and paranoia by day, we are supposed to concentrate our sketches and ideas to "comfort clothing", that is, clothes that make up feel secure at night and during the day.

We brain-stormed several ideas and shared them with the group. For instance, I thought that a safari hat, you know, those hats that shield your face from the sun with a visor and protects the back of your neck with a drop-veil that shades the back of your head. I also mentioned that the drop-veil might roll out from a compartment where one could place an chemical ice-pack that fits around the back of the neck. Priest Horaguchi said, Good, and just what would this hat shield you from? I answered, It'll keep you cool in the heat. He continued, How would it reduce your paranoid thinking? I thought about it and said, It wouldn't. It'll keep you cool. He looked at me like I was trying to explain algebra with arithmetic.

So he went elsewhere. And that's when Norie brought up the pajamas. Good, and what would they shield you from? Horaguchi asked. From my nightmares. And they would just protect me; they'd protect everyone, because my nightmares affect all of us. Horaguchi nodded and said, Go on.

Norie nodded back and began: I have bad dreams. And when I wake up, I hear in the news echoes of my dreams. I dream of the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel, and the next day, the news reports that someone was attacked nearby the wheel or that something dead was pulled from the water underneath the pier, usually dead seagulls or cats. And I don't know why cats would be near water--they hate water. I'm sure they are dragged there. Or carried there. The aren't eaten. They're just dead. And all my dreams happen by the beach. Except for the first dream I had over and over when I returned home from the hospital. When the police were asking me questions about my disappearance, I thought it was important to tell them the dream. But they never wanted to note it down. They'd close their notebook when I started talking dreams.

That's when I started to share my dreams with Priest Horaguchi. It seemed I wasn't the only one who came to see our priest. Others came too with their own bad dreams. And that's when we started our therapy classes. It started with the dreams, then switched to various ways to understand why we were dreaming these things. Then the therapy changed, and changed again, as we tried to find a way to make the dreams mean something. But we just grew more and more frustrated. We lost some members. But then Professor Servante started his series on trauma, and we finally got him here. And it's been a group effort to try to keep him here. We see in him the frustrations we had early in our therapy. We started the Painting Therapy for him. But it's time to get back to dreams. I mean, no disrespect to the Professor, but that's why we're here. We're all being affected by bad dreams, and I don't think it's a coincidence that our communities are being affected too. Even the Professor saw the damage to the Petting Zoo after the storm. And he dreamed about it first.

So, let's get back to dreams. This is the first dream I had when I was returned to my home. I don't dream it anymore. They're worse now. But I want to start at the beginning. And then I'll talk about what I intend to do about it.

The Problem:
The Dream
We're in a big cave with fires everywhere. There are lots of people moving around, their shadows stretching across the walls. There are groups of people moving in herds. There are shepherds guiding their groups around the fires. These shepherds are tall and faceless, more shadow than face. They have claws, long uncut nails, more knuckles than fingers. They have dirty cloaks that look like wings. They are wings. They float above their groups. They emerge from the black walls like bees from a honeycomb. They are all different. They pluck people from the groups. They fight with the shepherds. They are the shepherds. Their fighting is fierce but short, like two birds fighting over a scrap of food. I stand on a wide ledge. I can see the same scenes playing out on the ledge below, on the ledge above. Not so much on my ledge. There are many ledges. It is the same all the time. There is no day or night to measure weeks and months. This sameness is comforting. I don't get hungry. I am not scared. I stopped watching the fights. The moans and screams of the groups become background noise. It becomes normal. It is the moments of silence that are scary. In the last moment of silence, I saw Professor Servante emerge from the wall on my ledge. The walking and flying shepherds hide in the shadows. Then I see my father and Priest Horaguchi. I am confused. Familiar faces surround me. I am not alone on my ledge. We group together and follow the Professor. I fall asleep. I wake up.

The Solution?
If we had protection in the dream, we might be able to control it, or at least stop being afraid of it. What if we went to sleep wearing protective pajamas. In the Cactus Friends, they wear protective prickly suits to keep death, evil, and all bad things away, because whatever tries to touch them gets their finger picked by one of the needles on the cactus suit. My Manga characters, the Plumage Pvnks, wear bird suits so they can fly away from death, evil, and all bad things. I've been drawing bird pajama designs for my mom to sew together. I've got three suits so far. One for me, one for Suzie, and one for Bridget, my friend who is still in a coma. Suz and Bridge's parents already agreed to let the girls wear the pajamas.

The first pair of pajamas is ready. I put them on and went to sleep. They were a bit too soft and smooth and I kind of slid around in them when I tossed in bed. It felt like the pjs could slide around when I moved in my sleep, so I had my mom use a tougher material for the insides. On the second try, the pjs stayed fixed to my skin. A bit itchy, but that's okay. That'll wash out, my mom tells me.

Let me now tell you about my other dreams. I saw a man get killed by a big man in a trench coat who was floating above him. The dead man's body washed up in the Montebello riverbed. The Professor covered this news article in his blog. The man apparently got caught in a flash flood up by Arcadia and was carried by the San Gabriel River down to Montebello. The news said he was already dead when the flash flood hit. He was covered with scratches. Probably from branches and rocks in the river, the police told reporters.

That's not the way it happened in my dream. He tried to run away from the thing flying over his homeless shelter in the river basin where the water usually doesn't reach, except for flash floods. But the flash flood came later. The thing knocked over his shanty, his cardboard house. He was calling for help, but most of the other shanty people had gone when the police ordered them out before the storm hit.

In my dream, I was there. As the thing flew over the shanty, I tried to see its face in the hoodie. It was wearing a hoodie with the trench coat. It made sense in the dream. It didn't seem to have feet, except for when it knocked over the shanty and the man ran. As he screamed for help, the thing turned its head at me for a full second, a long second. Then it swooped down on the running man.

I thought in that moment if I had a Plumage Pvnk outfit on in the dream that I could have flown like we do in dreams and saved the man. The thing wouldn't or couldn't have hurt me because my outfit protected me. That's what I thought. Then I woke up with the pajamas idea. What if we went to sleep with the outfits? We'd be ready for the them, those things. Oh, yes, there's more than one. That's what my other dreams are about. The other ones. The hooded thing seems to be their leader. He's the one I remember most when I'm awake. He's the faceless man in the cavern. He's the flying thing in the dream.

That's what we need protection from. First in dream, then in waking time. I don't know how I can protect myself with pajamas when I awake, but protecting myself in dream is a start. Suzie and I need to plan how we can meet in dream in full costume. We need to use dream power to use the suits. It makes sense. I read a lot of Manga. I know it'll work.

Norie sat down.

Deputy Evelyn stood and added that other bodies were washing up along the southernmost coastline where the tangle of rivers drained into the Pacific. Most of the victims were homeless men and women. Thanks to law enforcement from the City of Duarte, the City of Arcadia, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Santa Monica, whose Homeless Project is tracked by Priest Horaguchi, and Long Beach PD, all the dead have been identified. Half of the victims were reported in the local newspapers of the above cities. The other victims, although identified, were not reported based on requests from immediate family. A handful of the victims could not be identified. Remember, these bodies washed up after the storms that tore up the Southland last winter. But it wasn't just the flash floods and the freezing temperatures that took the lives of these poor souls. There's the matter of this large man in the trench coat. Luckily just about everyone has a camera on their cell phone so we got plenty of pictures of this man. But these pictures are usually blurred by the rain or fog. Still, we do have something to work with. The local newspapers and the city law enforcement are working on finding this person of interest. He may just be a spectator who saw these victims get washed away by the rain. We just want to find him and ask him a few questions.

Norie resumed talking after Evelyn sat down. Let's not forget that it's not just people who are dying. Remember that in the Professor's neighborhood, the animals in the petting zoo were all killed.

I said loudly, A wind storm did that.

Norie said coldly, Not according to my dreams. I saw the drawings of the group. The "owl man" looks like the "trenchcoat man" from my dreams. How many people here dream of this man?

Everyone raised their hand. I was surprised to see SaraH and Horaguchi raise their hands. I didn't raise my hand. I folded my arms across my chest.

Norie continued, I will be wearing the swan pajamas to bed next week. Then if and when I meet the Owl Man in my dream, I'll be protected by the pajamas.

I forced a laugh. Will we all be given pajamas to wear to bed?

No. Just Suz, me, and Bridget.

Damn. This isn't exactly therapy anymore, is it? When do we get back to painting?

Evelyn stood again. I got nervous chills. Cops!

She said, As long as I've been reading your blog and your Facebook page, you've been hopping in and out of therapy, doctor offices, and social media shoulders to cry on. Now you can do something concrete. Even if we're just spinning our wheels, this group will be helping three young girls, and in so doing, we'll be helping ourselves. We won't be taking on the Owl Man. That's a matter for the police. We'll be facing the Owl Man of our dreams. It just seems like a big coincidence that this Owl Man or Trench Coat man is the one thing we all have in common. If he's in our dreams, that means there's a real memory of a real person behind such dreams. If we can help the girls defeat him in their dreams, then we can awaken the real memory of this man. Isn't that why you're here? To remember what you've been blocking since last August 2018? What are you afraid of? Remembering? All the doctors, drugs, and therapy have led you here. It's time to try the latest therapy. Pajama Therapy. We going to chase the Owl Man out of our dreams and bring him into our waking world where the Law can take care of him. I firmly believe this man is responsible for the abductions of these girls. We've all been traumatized by the abduction of these girls. If we want closure, we need to help the girls, and the girls need to wear the pajamas. It's a tool, a security blanket. When we run into this beast in our dreams, we run away, we wake up, we avoid confronting him. Now's our chance to confront the bastard. I think I speak for everyone here.

Everyone looked at me. I unfolded my arms and shrugged my shoulders. I spoke my piece:

When I was about ten years old, a child molester tricked me into his car. It was late evening, dark. I was walking home from the movies. I was about a block away from my front door. It was a Saturday. I remember because I knew everyone, my dad, my older brother, my younger brother, would be listening to the Dodgers game on the radio in the kitchen while eating dinner or drinking sodas. The man told me that he was lost and was looking for a street. I told him where it was. He acted confused and asked me to show him. He opened the door and beckoned me in. Don't worry, he said, I'm a cop. He showed me a badge, but his thumb was covering the photo and name side of the holder. I can't see your picture I said. He lowered his thumb till his picture showed, but he kept his thumb over his name. It looked like a real Sheriff's Deputy badge. I grew up in East LA. I knew what a police badge looked like. So I got in. The street he wanted was only two blocks away.

He did a U-turn, away from my front door, and drove toward the street I directed him to. He told me that he got a new magazine, that it's on the floor in front of me, that I can look at it. It was a Porno mag. First time I ever saw such graphic sex. At that very moment I knew I made a big mistake. He told me that I should come to his house something, that there are boys my age there that I could play with. I said yes, hoping he'd set and date and let me out, but he grew more brazened. Let's go now, he said. Can't, I said. Unless one of my brothers goes with me. We can go pick him up. Do you have a swimming pool? Sure do, he said, eagerness in his voice. Where do you live? Right where you picked me up.

He did another U-turn and took me right back to the exact location. I live right behind that house, I lied. Then I stepped out of the car with the magazine in hand. That's when I made my second mistake. I said, I have to show the magazine to my brother so he'll want to come with us. I saw on his face that he knew I was lying. In a stern voice, he told me to put the magazine back on the seat. I did. He told me to close the door. I did. He drove off with the headlights off so I couldn't see the license number. He didn't stop at the stop sign and made a right turn at the next corner. That's when I saw his headlights go on.

As I expected, I found my dad and brothers listening to the game. I didn't tell them anything. What was to tell? I walked into the living room and turned on the TV.

Although nothing happened to me that night, my dreams tell me otherwise. In dream, I am at his house. And it's a house right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's the house from Night of the Living Dead. I never get hurt in the dreams, but there's always the apprehension that something bad is about to happen. Many times it happens to the unseen boys who are usually there. One Asian. One Black. One Latino. One White. Always four different races. Always four boys. I never count myself as one of them, but I'm there too. The cop from the car is never there, not in the room with us anyway; he's always in another room. And I know he's probably molesting some child. Sometimes there's screams that we all ignore. Sometimes there's crying, and that worries us. We seem to understand the screams but the tears are terrifying. Pain causes screams. What causes tears?

When the door knob turns, the boys turn to the door. I look at the boys. They sometimes scream. They sometimes weep. And I always wake up before the door opens because I know he's coming for one of us, and I know we'll see what just happened to the child in that room. And I don't want to know.

That's how dreams work, I tell the group. They protect us. They hide the source of the screams; they buffer the source of the tears. We're adults here, most of us. We know what happens in that room. How is a bird costume going to protect us from our own fears? The dreams are us. They're not out there, over there, in a place where we go. They're inside us.

Norie stood and said, But we're not alone inside anymore. The child molester is your Owl Man. Get rid of him and the dream becomes some boys in a room without danger. It's not about pajamas, Professor. It's about facing the thing behind the door. Let the door open. See what comes out. Deal with it. Safely. With confidence that it cannot harm you.

She sat. I sat.

Priest Horaguchi said that that will be all for today. At the next meeting, we'd hear how the trial flight of the Plumage Pvnk fared. And the meeting was adjourned.

Note: I didn't go to the next meeting as I stood home and watched football. But after talking with SaraH at the Starbucks the other day, I decided to attend the next meeting, if only to hear about the Plumage Pvnk trial. I will begin to wrap up the Trauma & Therapy series with these Plumage Pvnk tests. I long to move on with the blog. Maybe I'm feeling better; maybe it's just more evasion and denial. But good therapy is always about "fight or flight", face your fears OR avoid them and move on. It's time for me to decide. Either way, I'll definitely move on. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

Views from a Troubled Mind 
Scene #17

In For a Penny, In For a Pound...of Flesh:
Enter the Bakemono

by Anthony Servante

A Typical Bakemono

In July, as I have written in my current Trauma & Therapy Update, I attended my Painting Therapy session at the Buddhist Temple in Santa Monica, California early Sunday afternoon. I expected to continue my new therapy, that is, to draw stream of consciousness images from my dreams in an effort to free up the memories that brought on my "associative amnesia", a condition that has plagued me since August 2018. At these painting sessions, I not only drew images randomly, I also practiced two-point perspective drawings, which I found quite useful for capturing buildings and houses. These structures were not related to my condition; I only wished to expand on my learning in this new artistic field for me. The free-form style that the therapist encouraged for our dream images did not require perspective or realism. We were told to draw without thinking about form, to simply allow the lines and shades capture the dream images without "remembering". Draw quickly and let come what may. And I followed these instructions. But I wanted to understand how to draw beyond the therapy and thought this was the place for me to try to explore such lessons. Volunteers from the local college Art Department were invited to assist those of us who had questions beyond the "dream images". I asked about perspective. And two volunteers helped me.

The following Sunday, these two volunteers were uninvited from the session. We were reminded that we were there for therapy, not classes. When the therapist brought this up, he addressed the entire group, but after the session, he talked to me alone about not losing my focus on why I was there. It was then that I knew that I was causing the therapy session to stray from its goal: The dreams. I didn't realized how much more deeply this rift I was causing was until the following Sunday.

That Sunday afternoon, the Painting Therapy group and its therapist brought in a guest speaker who led an intervention to get me back on track with the goals of the therapy. They covered a lot of territory and information that was taken directly from my blog. I won't go over what was said because you can read it for yourself in the last Update. What I do want to go over was the question I had asked sarcastically, a question I directed at the guest speaker, and indirectly, the entire group and the therapist: What I asked was: Has this therapy group turned into a cult? Without waiting for an answer, I walked out of the intervention.

I calmed down since and plan to return to the session for the August therapy at the temple. But that question of the matter of the "cult" still hung in the air. I mean, I have never been to an Alcohol Anonymous session, but I've read the literature. It sounds like a cult. You have to accept a "higher power" as one of the first steps toward recovery. As a matter of fact, all the steps smack of proselytizing. Is this what I could expect from the painting sessions? Or was I being defensive because of my trauma? Victims sometimes try to protect the habits they develop to keep the bad memories at bay. Some people whistle nervously, some people crack bad jokes, some people get angry for no reason. I get angry a lot.

Well, regarding my question about the "cult", I got an answer by email. As I have chosen to return to the therapy, I thought it prudent to share this email with you readers. I know the therapy group will be reading this as well, so this is my "paranoid" way to letting you know what I'm returning to next Sunday. If anything should happen to me, you know where I'm being held captive by the cult members. But I joke. It's better than anger, I suppose. But no, I'm not going to accept a "higher power". I'm there for the painting therapy; it has been more productive for me than any medical treatment I've received over the last year. So if I have to put up with these beliefs from the group, so be it.

Well, I've said my piece.

Here's the email that answers my question about the Temple being a cult. It was a terrible thing to leave hanging when I walked out of the last Painting Therapy session. So, please take the response with a grain of salt. The therapy is held at a Buddhist Temple and the therapy is conducted by a Buddhist priest. I won't let my defense mechanisms or belief system cloud my chances for learning to deal with my trauma. I know I will never recover. I can only hope to learn to live with my trauma. So all I ask of you, dear readers, is to please keep your belief systems in check as you read this email. I know you will want to protect me from my perceived threats because that's what friends do. But just keep in mind that this Priest is trying to help me. The fact that he even sent this email to me shows his concern for my leaving the group so abruptly. I left the Shrink in similar fashion. It's something I need to work on. So, thank you ahead of time for not passing judgment on these people who are trying to help me. Even though that's just what I did.

Anthony Servante

The Email from Priest Bobue Horaguchi

Are we a cult?

This is the question you asked. You left before you could get an answer. What group of people who belief singularly is not a cult? You didn't ask if we were a religion. The word "cult" was foremost in your accusation, though you may believe you were asking a question, for you used the interrogative form. But your irony was not lost on anyone in the group. And your early departure revealed that you believed the answer was "yes". Even though you enter a Temple of Buddhist belief and practice, you accuse our therapy group of sinister motives. Let me clarify that the group is not Buddhist. The parents of our young members are part of my Temple and do practice our ways. The rest have different beliefs.

So, what is it that our group believes? We believe that our trauma has affected us each in a special way. We believe that our trauma is related to each other. We believe that we are the last of our group, and that one year ago this month of August 2019, the group was nearly twice its size. We believe that we cannot overcome our trauma, but we can learn to live with it. We can learn to endure and prosper if we shed a light in that darkness that traumatized us.

What is in that darkness? Well, now we must turn to Buddhist teachings. Just as every religion has a good and an evil, a heaven and a hell, our "cult" relies on the Buddhist learning to find the light to shine on the darkness. The therapy is just a tool to relax the troubled mind. Yes, I do read your "Views from a Troubled Mind". Very insightful. They are echoes of the very thoughts of every member of our group. What troubles you is the darkness because you can feel what is inside, but you cannot see it. Some in our group have seen it. They are no longer with us. Those who have not seen it are the current members of the group, the smaller version. I'd like to keep it from shrinking further.

What is in the darkness is called "bakemono" by the Japanese, "demons" by the Catholics, "devas" by Buddhists. But I am quite sure that there are better words for these creatures. They are also called paranoia, anxiety, loneliness, amnesia, regret, shame, and fear. This covers the demons of our group. And what's the commonality? Trauma. Where is this darkness? In our minds. What is the light? Dreams. And how do dreams depict our devas and bakemono? For us, it's a combination of real and unreal. A mixture of memory and fantasy, or false memory and the fantastic. We've seen it in the drawings. The birds with human features.

How do we conquer our demons? Well, listen to the children for starters. The Plumage Pvnk pajamas. The children plan to wear their "armor" next time they enter their dreams when they will face the bakemono. The trouble is, there are more than one. Again, paranoia, anxiety, loneliness, amnesia, regret, shame, and fear are the devas. To conquer these creatures is to conquer the source of the trauma. That is, take control of it. Fear, for instance, will remain, but we will each have our own armor to deal with our own demons.

Allow me to explain, in the metaphoric language of my first language. I will translate to English. Please forgive that which gets lost in translation.

Dreams mutilate memories by feeding the demons hiding in our minds. When trauma shocks the body, a door to the mind opens. The bakemono enter. These are normal things that we see everyday in our waking life. The demons eat parts of the memory till only the crumbs of the memory remain, and when we wake, we remember the half eaten memories as if they were the real waking ones. These mutilated remembrances are thus deemed real. For instance, the memory of a homeless man that is killed in a flashflood becomes a two-headed reptile, one head a man's, the other a gila monster's. The beast is the bakemono. We created it by giving it residence in our troubled mind. The news showed us the tragedy of this man's death. Then our dreams alter the memory into a bakemono. When we wake, the bakemono replaces the news report. The beast killed the homeless man, and we believe it because the mutilated memory is now real. Everyday we wake with such twisted memories. We must learn to separate the real from the unreal memories, which is hard for those of us who deny that these memories are not unreal. That's my struggle as a therapist, to strip away the denial in order to find the first layer of the mutilated memory. You believe we are trying to cover up the existence of these winged demons who are preying on the homeless and other victims, including your petting zoo animals.

These monsters have taken on a life of their own. We see them in the real world, in our waking world. One year ago this month, our group had a joint trauma. You and I, SaraH and Norinko's father, Torinko, entered the Santa Monica Tunnel that bridges the 10 Freeway to the 101 Pacific Coast Highway. This is where Norinko was lost. We found that inside the tunnel, there was an opening to an old office space that the railroad company once used while building the last leg of the train passage to the West Coast. A homeless group found the opening and used the old office as a living space. It was in the news when the Santa Monica Police evicted them from the site. But before they could seal off the opening, you believed that Norinko may have found her own way into the opening. Once you found that she was not among the group that was evicted, we agreed to enter the opening the night before the opening was sealed off the next day. We entered the opening around midnight, pressing ourselves against the wall of the inside tunnel as freeway traffic whizzed by. You cared not about the danger. You knew in your heart that we would find Norinko in there.

And we did. At great cost. But, also, at great success. For we found many lost people behind another false wall inside the office. We literally walked in darkness for miles, following the cries echoing the the dark caverns. We followed the cries, touching the scaly cold walls. When we saw the light in the distance, it was not a friendly light, but still we pushed toward it. Once there, we entered the glowing redness. I can only imagine that there were hundreds of homeless people living there. The redness came from the many fires burning throughout the great cavern. It was easy to see how the police did not find it. Easy to understand how so many people searching for a missing girl could get lost in it. We found Norinko and the other children, the three policemen, and others who could not find a exit, who wished to leave this place. There were those violent men in the cavern who prevented the lost group from leaving or from searching for a way out. But when we found a way in, we also found the way out for those who wanted to leave. We held hands and returned to the cavern opening leading back to the office. But some of the firestarters, the trouble-makers, were angry with our being there and attacked us. I could only imagine this is how many of the people here got trapped here. Thank God for Torinko, who fought off the firestarters while we escaped. You were attacked as well. Still you managed to escape. Together the rest of us found our way to the office, out of the tunnel, and back to my van. But Torinko never made it out. Later the police returned to look for him, but the cavern was collapsed. 

Honestly, I don't believe that we were believed about the cavern. But the missing people were found. And since we each told a different version of what happened, the truth was lost. Subconsciously, you wrote about this in your essay on "Chinese Whispers". Little did you realize, you were remembering the truth.

Afterwards, each of the group of survivors dealt with their ordeal in their own way. We never learned what each of them suffered, for we suffered in silence for months. We pray for those who couldn't bear their memories and took their own lives. We reach out to those who yet live, but who live a life between dream and reality. You were hospitalized. And after you were released, you cut all contact with us. But then you started your Trauma & Therapy series. You were trying to reach out without knowing it. Each of our group sent in their narratives about their ordeals, but you also received my accounts by people who are not part of our group. You couldn't separate us from them. That is, until we invited you to the Painting Therapy.

SaraH was already part of the group. She helped convince you to join us here at the Temple. This is why we seem so familiar to you. You know us and we know you. While you saw your psychiatrist and took your drugs, we waited. But with the direction your blog was taking, we knew we had to reach you soon. Your denial was growing stronger. You were abandoning medical help and medicine. That's when we decided on having the intervention as the first step toward awakening your memory. We needed to put you back on track to remembering the real homeless people in that cavern. For you, those poor people became bakemono. But those creatures are the mutilated memories that have begun to tilt the scale of your perception. We must tilt the scale back to a real waking perspective where birds are birds, dead squirrels are acts of nature, and conspiracies are a cult of your own making.

There is yet more work we must deal with. Your memory is fading with age. Your short-term memory is also beginning to deteriorate. We'd hope to tell you this in person. Let this email be the second step of your recovery. The intervention being the first. The third is the Plumage Pvnks. There is much we can learn from these children, for they have insights to the ordeal that only they can share. They waited a long time for you to re-join us. It's the next step in your therapy. You need it, and we need you. You and your blog are our voice.

I understand why you left so abruptly. You saw a glimpse of what is in your darkness. The bird-creatures of your dreams are real--real to your traumatized mind. Are you ready to face them with your eyes wide awake? Then join us this Sunday on the Labor Day weekend. We'll be serving barbecue, French Fries, and coffee.

The next step is up, and that is Pajama Therapy. You don't have to make any pajamas. What you will learn is how to make armor that you can wear in your dreams. Sound foolish. Good, because if that makes sense, you sure as hell don't need this group. We're the crazy ones. We're the cult. But you even have an iota of a memory of that night last August 2018, we need you here this Sunday. It will mark our one-year anniversary of our trauma. And the beginning of recovery. It's okay to get angry. We're all angry. That's how we know the Bakemono are among us. We haven't learned to control our emotions and defense mechanisms. 
Priest Bobue Horaguchi

Summary: I don't remember any of this. But at this point, it doesn't matter. Like my friends on Facebook, I know them and I don't know them. As long as I like them, that's all that matters. These are my friends now, traumatized victims each and every one of us, each of us dealing with our demons in our own way. For me, it's being with people like me that "may" help. Or not. In either case, I will be returning Sunday. Hell, it's time for Pajama Therapy. And barbecue.