Who Exactly is Paul Coruso and Where Did He Come From?

Many of you ask where I came up with the pen name “Paul Coruso.” Well, here’s your answer.

A favorite record of mine is the Jimi He600full-axis_-bold-as-love-coverndrix classic “Axis: Bold as Love”, the second studio album by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The intro track, “EXP”, begins with a few notes from the Hendrix song “Stone Free” (although played one-half step down) and then features a conversation between Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and Hendrix about UFOs, where Mitchell plays a radio host and Hendrix plays an outerspace alien in the guise of a human named Mr. Paul Caruso.

Hendrix’s voice is gradually slowed down until he eventually takes off in his “spaceship” (his electric guitar ~ a Fender Stratocaster), much to the host’s consternation (“But-but-but”, he splutters). The amusing skit ends with the jazzy brush strokes of Mitchell on drums, introducing a favorite song “Up from the Skies” about a space alien who has visited the earth thousands of years in the past and returns to the present to “find the stars misplaced, and the smell of a world that has burned.”

Paul Caruso was actually a friend of Hendrix’s from his days in Greenwich Village. I changed the spelling of his name slightly to protect the innocent, which includes the original Mr. Caruso and frankly, me too. You’ll understand once you read the book.

There you have it!

If you want to know more about the musings, madness, and music of Paul Coruso, or my first book “Map of Dreams”, sign up below!

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The Hurtaree: Wacko Christians on a Rampage

Some of my trusted early readers liked the first edition of my suspense/thriller novel “Map of Dreams,” but wanted more substance to the ending. The great news about e-pubbing is ~ this is easy to do! So I gladly accepted the challenge, thinking I would simply add one more chapter to the end and be done with it.

But alas, I never do anything simple.

You know, I’m glad for the challenge, for writing a more robust ending has provided me the opportunity to add two new key characters and a monster new twist to the book. Stay tuned folks, because the new addition will be out on Labor Day 2013!

This post, and others I will put up from time to time, WILL NOT spoil the book for you. They just briefly introduce you to elements of the story that are useful to know beforehand.

One of the creeds I followed while writing “Map of Dreams” was to never to make-up elements that don’t exist in real life, and so I didn’t. Not anywhere. Everything you find in the book, and I mean everything, has a factual basis. And leave it to those crazy Christians to deliver on a silver platter exactly the character I needed for my new ending.

This wacko Christian organization, called the Hurtaree, is a real-life militia movement group adhering to the ideology of the Christian Patriot movement. The group was formed in early 2006. The name “Hutaree” appears to be a neologism; the group’s web site says that it means “Christian warriors”. The group became widely known in 2010 after the FBI prosecuted them in federal court for an alleged plan for violent revolt. The prosecution said this was to have involved killing a police officer and attacking the funeral with bombs. The presiding judge dismissed these charges. Three members pled guilty to possessing a machine gun and were sentenced to time served.

I wonder if they serve cookies after their church services, or just pass out Maltoff cocktails?

Watch for the Hurtaree to appear about 2/3 of the way through the new edition of Map of Dreams, to be e-published on Amazon on Labor Day 2013.

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Until You’ve Wacked Your Weenie with a Razor and Burnt it with Acid, You’re Not Serious About Health Care Reform

Somewhere in my sordid travels I picked up a case of mollescum, which resulted in some rather scary warts appearing on my privates. It also provoked a few tense conversations with my girlfriend, where I was heard to plea, “I swear to God, honey. It was that sketchy hot tub in Barbados,” which might be true except for I’ve never been to Barbados. I understand you can, however, get this bug from hot tubs.  Anyway, the doctor immediately recognized the nasty ailment by its telltale dimpled caps, assuaging my considerable fears that I had contracted its nasty, mutated cousin ~ genital warts.

“No,” he said, examining my pride and chuckling, “Deese are not genital warts. And between de two of ’em, I’d rather have de molluscum.”

“Why?” I asked, biting my lower lip. Not why was he chuckling ~ I hated go there ~ rather why were they easier to treat. I was trembling, probably due to the clinical coolness of his clinic, but perhaps also because of my huge emotional investment in the health and well-being of my wang and its surrounding parts.

“Easier to treat,” he said, and then proceeded to rip off the top of each wart with a razor blade, and with an evil glint in his eye, douse the open wounds with acid.

The stinging was acute, and I howled like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, crying out “My precious! My precious!” as the doctor tore into each fresh molluscum wart with a feverish vengeance, plus more chuckling. When it was all over he sent me limping home with a $360 bill, a pat on the head, and a grape sucker. Oh ~ all that and a sausage that looked half-cooked and leprous.

Now please understand, I pay for my own health care insurance, and to keep my monthly premiums down, I chose a high deductible: $1000. That means the doctor’s bill was paid for by me, as were the two subsequent visits. For as it turns out, molluscum is pesky and hard to eradicate. On each visit, the Doc and I would go through the same torturous  process ~ the scraping, the burning, the howling, the whimpering, another pat on the head, grape lollipop, and bill for services rendered.

By the third visit, the Doc and I were on first name basis.

“Doc Charley,” I said. “What other ways are there to treat molluscum?”

“Well,” he said, sharpening his razor on a black leather strap and then gingerly feeling its edge with his burly thumb. “More modern facilities freeze the little bastards off with cryogenic tools. But seein’ how we is a gubment subsidized clinic, we can’t afford dat. Dat’s why I have to use de acid.” He stirred a smoking cauldron of the stuff with a boat oar and removed what looked like a chicken bone with a set of rusty tongs.

“Well that makes sense,” I said, eying leaky steam-pipes running through the cracked ceiling, and in the dim light catching glimpses of tentacled creatures fermenting in vats of formaldehyde, some of them still squirming. My wrists and ankles ached from the tightness of my restraints, and I was uncomfortable with the motley crowd of red-eyed drunks, tatted prostitutes, and grizzled creatures of the night who gathered to watch what had now become a regular spectacle ~ me writhing under the blade and acid of Doc Charley ~ my screams drowned out by his shrill laughter. My only comfort was their polite applause when it was all over, which I appreciated.

As I limped out of the clinic into the foggy, damp streets of the city, another bill tucked into my oily jeans, I began to think. Had this become some kind of sick Pavlovian experiment, with me psychosomatically manifesting warts on my wiener just for a taste of artificially flavored grape? It’s true I lusted for it. Were the Doc and I engaging in a pseudo-homosexual codependency, giving him a government sanctioned outlet for his latent Sadism, and me an excuse to let another man handle my gozzle? I hated to think it. Could cryogenic treatment by a more sane, and less expensive, method allow me to eradicate my own molluscum?

I chose to ignore the first two questions and focus on the third. A few minutes of searching on the Internet, the all-knowing fount of wisdom, and I found what I was looking for ~ an article entitled  “How to Remove Molluscum Warts Using Dry Ice.” Oh, the joy.

The next time the warts appeared, and they did, I made a quick run to the grocery store and bought a piece for 60 cents. No, that is not a typo. Sixty pennies for a chunk of cryogenically frozen carbon dioxide about the size of a deck of cards.

I rushed home. Rummaging around in my tool box, I found a razor and doused it with rubbing alcohol. I went into my bedroom and closed the door, trembling like a schoolboy anxious to drool on his stash of girlie mags while paying a comforting visit to Rosie Palm and her five sisters. But this was no comfort visit. I was about to perform my own surgery.

Stretching my 18 inches of glorious wonder before me, I quickly found the offending viral invasion. Five of them, no, six. Growing up, I learned that if you have six toads to swallow, go for the biggest, ugliest one first. Then the other five won’t seem so bad. So with that philosophy in mind, I attacked one big ugly mother with my razor. As it turns out, in this case my philosophy was wrong.

The ugliest toad was one of the smaller warts due to its strategic location near the business end of my wand, where all the nerves are and the magic happens. With a shaky hand I scraped off its cap. Not so bad. The searing pain came when I applied the dry ice. The Internet had told me to keep the pressure on for 20 seconds, and because I believe everything the Internet tells me, I did as I was told. 20 seconds could not come soon enough.

Since then, I’ve made two more trips to the grocery store for a total outlay of $2.64 for dry ice. It’s been several weeks now with no sign of molluscum, so I do believe I am free and clear of the stuff. Doc Charlie sends me fruitcakes by mail with flowery cards saying he misses me. But I’m not going back. I’ve taken health care into my own hands, both figuratively and literally, and that’s one good way to drive down its cost. Self care requires thinking like a pioneer, doing some homework, considerable bravery, and if it makes sense, treating yourself. I scrape my own teeth now too, with an $8 kit I bought at CVS, and have cut my dentist bills in half. Even my dentist approves.

So do it for yourself. Do it for America. Own your own health care. And if you need someone to hold your dick, call a friend.

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The Luminosity of Darkness and Wonder: Part Two

So ideas are inadequate to define God, and words are too. What then of the Bible ~ the written “Word of God”?

I am not a “Bib-idolator”, one who makes an idol of the Bible and who believes God cannot ever operate outside of what we read in its 66 books. Bib-idolators, second only to Koran-idolators as the most egregious of ideologues, lack the poetic thinking of which Sam Keene speaks. They transform the great love stories of scripture, with their epic sweep and grandeur, into a “constitution” ~ a legal document they use to condemn “other thinkers” (aka heretics) and coerce them into “orthodoxy” (right thinking), as if the orthodox know what right thinking is. Bib-idolators trap the living God in a 66 by 66 book-sized box, or worse, kill off the character just as he strokes the last word of scripture. To Bib-idolators, God is dead ~ she can write no more. But no! God lives and will not be contained. “Let God be God,” should be our mantra, and nothing else.

Bib-idolators claim “God never acts in a manner contrary to his word,” but the very scripture they idolize betrays that tenant. In Acts 10 we find the Apostle Peter on a rooftop trying to pray, but he is hungry and falls into a trance (low blood sugar?). He then sees heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contains all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds, all of which are forbidden to eat by “the Word of God,” or what we now call the Torah, which included the Law of Moses found in the Old Testament. But then...surprise! A voice tells Peter, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

Peter, an “orthodox” Jew, acts like one might expect him to. “Surely not, Lord!” he replies. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” But something huge is happening here ~God is out of the box. God is moving, alive, breaking his own rules, “acting in a manner contrary to his word.” But Peter is still a prisoner of rules and regulations, so God drops speaks to him a second time, and in one breathtaking, revolutionary statement changes everything. He says to Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

God the contrarian. God the rule breaker. God who will not be named. God the box buster. Just when you think you’ve got her all figured out, she breaks free of your ideas and goes in a very different direction.

And what if a sheet were to descend from heaven today? To whom would it appear, and what “unclean” thing would it hold? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it would make every gay and lesbian person in the world rejoice, for we are not to call unclean anything that God has made clean.

Perhaps by putting my thoughts to paper I am no better then the iconoclastic Byzantine warriors, who fought with swords rather than pens to abolish the veneration of icons and other religious images. For I too believe we should erase our images of God, for it is these very images that keep us from glimpsing the infinite and tasting the truly sacred.  Are we willing to be so fearless?

Erasing does not mean replacing. American evangelicals replaced the pale, weak, skinny, crucified Jesus of mid-evil Catholics with their own distorted image ~ a strapping, Hollywood handsome Jesus in clean blue robes holding a snowy lamb ~ a poster boy for their pro-war, middle class, capitalist, Western values. A kept man. A poser. Both images are lies.

Erasing the images means facing your fear and entering the “darkness of not knowing.” Erase your answers ~ there are only questions. Erase your names ~ there is only “he who cannot be named.” Erase the “he” ~ for God is he, she, both and neither. Erase your ideas ~ for if you believe an idea, you have to conform to it, no matter what else you might learn or experience. Put a 55 gallon drum in the middle of your personal parking lot and burn them all. Then experience the luminosity of darkness and wonder.

“But in the end we remain joined Him as to one unknown.” Dionysius the Areopagite

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The Luminosity of Darkness and Wonder: Part One

A favorite story of mine is from the summer of 1975, a few weeks after I was “born again” as a Christian. I was 19 years old. Back then I had quite a collection of vinyl records ~ The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Santana, Hendrix, Cream…all the great classics of rock. But the youth pastor who “led me to the Lord” declared rock music to be from the devil and that it should be destroyed. So he placed a 55 gallon drum in the church parking lot, and on a hot Saturday afternoon, all the youth brought their condemned records there and burned them. All except me. I kept my records and still have them to this day, evidence that, even then, I would not allow another person to do my thinking for me. I was then and am now the final arbiter of how to live my life. To do anything else is to forfeit one’s freedom and live in a box, and I believe God wants us to be free.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Don’t put God in a box,” and yet after over 40 years of life in the Christian church, I am amazed at how readily we all do it. I suspect it is because the idea of the infinite is just too incomprehensible, too vast, and it scares us. We run from the freedom, and choose instead a life of boxes, of identity, of belonging. There is no harm in such identification until we  drag God into our box, a prospect that would be downright laughable if it did not so often result in hatred, division, and bloodshed.

I recently finished a study of the so-called Byzantine Empire, one that ruled the civilized world for over a thousand years between the 4th and 16th centuries, all of it under the banner of Christ. Ferocious battles were fought during that time, sword to axe, brother against brother, with hundreds of thousands violently slain, all over the issue of whether to allow icons (images of God) into the faith, or to keep them out (iconoclastism). Petty? Not to the Byzantines, the Roman Catholics, or to modern-day Muslims for that matter. Each side has its box and is willing to die for it.

Then there is a matter of filioque ~ Latin for “and (from) the Son.” Since 1054 AD that single word, found in one version of the Nicene Creed, has been the primary cause of schism between the Western and Eastern Orthodox churches. The Eastern leave the word out, and the Western put it in. Then they fight about it…for centuries. How sad. Boxes.

I have long given up fighting ideologues, and today debate them only for sport. Scratch the surface of any ideologue, whether religious, political or otherwise, and underneath you will find a fearful person, who cannot be won, for that fear is both their protective bunker and their prison. The great Christian mystic Eckhart Tolle observed that “the idea of God can become the final obstacle to God.”  My ideas about God, and theirs, are ultimately worthless and impediments to our spiritual journey. As Joseph Campbell aptly said, “Religion is an inoculation against the mystery.”

There is no way the human imagination can fathom the ultimate, and the only way to catch a glimpse of it is by vanquishing one’s fear of the unknown. But religious ideologues do the opposite ~ they fuel their fear with perceived threats to their dogma, ideology, and culture. They must stoke the fire of their belief so it burns hot and bright, that it may keep away the bogymen of mystery and the darkness of the unknown.

But there is light and freedom in the darkness. As the author Sam Keene said:

The spiritual mind is always metaphorical. Spiritual thinking is poetic thinking. It’s always trying to put a very diaphanous experience into words, realizing all the while that words are inadequate. So if you have an idea of God you think is adequate, it’s not. I think we have to trust ourselves in the darkness of not knowing. The God out of which we came and into which we go is an unknown God. It’s the luminosity of that darkness and that unknowing that is, I think, the most human — and the most sacred — place of all.

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