Middlebury, Vermont: Good Night Sweet Prince

Friday, April 16, 2021. Middlebury, Vermont.
Soundtrack: Here Come the Mummies – Ra Ra Ra

We touched down on an active farm deep in the heart of Clarendon, where we would be staying for the weekend while she conducted whatever dark and uncatholic dealings she had lined up. The nearest neighbor was a mile away, so no one could hear screaming, should there have been any screaming. I wasn’t afraid. Remember in the third Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where the actor who played Kenan’s dad just boots Leatherface square in the gut, side-kick style? I knew karate once. I’d go high, Beefy’d go low, the witch could nuke from the backline.

Assuming Leatherface was the concern, of course, and I didn’t get turned into a donkey and ridden all over the countryside like in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. That series gave me a powerful childhood fear of agriculture. I maintain the fear, but now it’s because of comparative studies of hunter gatherer societies, and knowledge of what grain does to the human body.

The farm itself was populated by aloof female farm dogs, and a single male Australian Shepherd named Cody with a mutation that caused his right pupil to split, like the eye of a goat. He would not stop humping my attorney.

Beefton is a gentleman of culture and refinement. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, and he doesn’t want to kill the vibe, so he never fights other dogs unless it’s clear that they’re just wrasslin’. He kept running away. Cody was single-minded, obsessive, and not actually too into it, since he was whining on the approach every time. I figured he was trying to assert his dominance over the larger, younger male dog invading his territory, but halfheartedly. Beefton had no idea what was going on and just kept fleeing.

“You’re gonna have to flip him,” I told him. “You’ve got to set boundaries.”

Beefton gazed at me with his doofy Baby Yoda face, awaiting intervention as Cody set up to sort of hump at his left hip. I imagined Cody didn’t get off the farm much.

“It’s a microcosm of life,” I said. “You’ve got to stand up for yourself. They’ll try to fuck you if you let them. Or… do whatever that is.”

“Cody!” yelled the farmers. “Get off him!”

Cody would not be dissuaded. Beefton looked at my beseechingly. I shrugged.

“You outweigh him by like 30 pounds. Put him on his ass and this will never happen again.”

“I am a man of peace,” Beefton told me. “We’re better than this.”

“Just throw one of the left hooks you use to flip the scrappy little German Shepherd madchens at the dog park.”

“But that’s for funsies and this feels like it’s for serious,” he said, apprehensively. Beefy took a few steps away from Cody, glancing back over his own rippling, overdeveloped deltoids. Undeterred, Cody wandered over to get back to what he perceived as his task.

“It might be funsies, but they respect your torque! An armed society is a polite society, lil mans.”

“Cody!” the farmers were still yelling. “What the hell’s the matter with you? Leave him alone!”

Beefton nodded, considering my words. He turned toward Cody, who was crookedly humping the air in the vicinity of Beefton’s side. They made eye contact. Beefy growled a little, then let loose one of his bassy sonic boom barks that have proven so effective at scaring teens off my front stoop back in Philly.

Cody dismounted and drifted away.

For the time being.

We loaded back up into the wagon and made our way across the state so the witch could scout locations for a thaumaturgist’s hut. Beefton and I secured the perimeter, burning the pent up anxiety from his protracted assault by lunging at squirrels and peeing on everything. He did most of the lunging and peeing.

And once in Middlebury, we stopped in to pay our respects to the late Amum-Her-Khepesh-Ef.

You’re gonna love this one.

In the late 1800s, deep in the social oasis of Middlebury (relative to the utter backwoods desolation that is the rest of Vermont), there lived a collector of expensive, weird things by the name of Henry Sheldon.

He looks around his curio collection and decides, “You know what this could really use? A mummy.” So he puts in an order for a mummified Egyptian prince, a two-year-old called Amum-Her-Khepesh-Ef. This was before Craigslist, so there were really no pictures of the mummy available. Caveat emptor and all that.

The mummy arrives, and Sheldon is inconsolable. It was apparently “in such a degraded condition that Sheldon never put it out on display”.

“This mummy sucks!” Sheldon probably said, jabbing a finger at the withered corpse of Egyptian royalty dating back to 2000 BC. “This mummy is bullshit!”

Disgraced and ashamed, Sheldon stashed the little body up in his attic, where it remained until decades after Sheldon himself died.

Lil Amum is then happened upon by the curator of the Henry Sheldon museum, a good-hearted fella called George Mead. Mead recognizes that this isn’t what this two-year-old Egyptian prince would have wanted, to be so far from home, from the land of his forefathers, boxed up in some Vermontian attic because he’s too ugly to be displayed, like a leisure suit or home movies on VHS.

Mead sets things right by having the mummy cremated and buried in a Judeo-Christian cemetery across the street from the Middlebury Art College.

I like to think Amum was just booling out in the Egyptian afterlife with all his slaves and gold, all the things that mummification was required to insure, and then abruptly vaporizes a la “I don’t feel so good Mr. Stark” and reappears in the middle of Sunday mass in Heaven, seated in the pew and looking up at the actual, actively writhing body of Jesus, since you’ve got to assume in Heaven they don’t need to do carved representations.

Probably frigged up his whole day.

“Rest in power, little king,” I said to Amum.

At that moment, probably coincidentally, the sky opened up and it started pouring. We ran back to the car where Beefy was waiting to make sure the campus police didn’t ticket us.

Love,

BT

Yea, I’m into BDSM: Beatitude, Dharma, Stupas, and Moderation

October 8, 2017. Sedona, Arizona.

What the hell is a Buddhist Stupa, you may ask?

I suspect you may, because I certainly was, and by all accounts I should have known. In the five lost years I spent between high school and college doing sketchy blue collar work, abusing substances, and reading, I cleared entire shelves on Zen (and astrology but like, I’m not as proud of that one). I know more paradoxical riddles and methods of sitting real still than you could shake a shit-stick at. I also grifted my way through a grad course for my philosophy minor called “Special Topics: American Buddhism”, but that was chiefly just reading monotonous Alan Watts excerpts and arguing with communists.

Why they always gotta make it about the state, anyway? I’m just tryna talk about buddhanature and have a good time, it doesn’t always need to be civic responsibility and the plight of the proletariat. Besides, Buddha straight up said “the most important thing is to do good work”! Even Buddha’s telling you to get a job!

Sorry. I digress.

Two miles off the highway, through a residential area with street names like “Moondrop Ave” and “Allegra Drive” and the equally thematic “Splendor Court”, I found the dirt pull off for a ‘tranquility park’ that I am, quite frankly, too Western to remember the name of. I parked the car and shuffled up the path to the park proper, passing a shoeless nine-year-old girl who was discernibly closer to enlightenment than I have ever been.

The Stupa itself was a 36-foot tall pink monument with an alcove near the top housing, you guessed it, Buddha. A path was worn into the ground around it designating the meditative circle you were supposed to take while contemplating that good loving-kindness. Stupas function as compassion batteries, absorbing all the good vibes from decent, outwardly-projecting Buddhists, amplifying them, and broadcasting them across the world in an effort to cleanse the karma of all living beings. Only a Buddhist can say “#all lives matter” and really mean it, but they wouldn’t because of the douche factor.

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In a little pavilion next to the stupa was a man and three generations of women, all sitting cross-legged and listening to him tell a story in a gentle, nonthreatening voice. He was definitely moving in on the cute daughter, and she was definitely into it. Next to their gathering was some Vegan chow, a plastic baggy full of graham crackers that someone had covered in birdseed.

“Not very compassionate,” I chided to myself, realizing my internal monologue was being, well, a bastard. “This karma needs cleanin’.”

I did three laps of the Stupa and touched it, got my cosmic tally reset, then spun a couple of prayer wheels. As I understand, prayer wheels do the same thing the stupa does, but in a little burst when you spin it. Think of it like an automatic car. You press the pedal and the rpms gradually go up. Stomp the pedal and for a second your rpms’ll jump to 6k and your engine will scream. It’s like that, but with understanding and kindness.

prayerwheels

Prayer flags hung from the trees all around the walking meditation trail, and little shrines to Buddha were decorated with colored stones and flat, stacked rocks. These little cairns serve the same purpose as the greater and better organized stupa, but more localized; each stone functions as a prayer to impart blessings on the stacker and their loved ones, with the implication that the balance of the stones mirrors the desired harmony of the stacker’s life.

It was a nice place. Very peaceful. The boundaries were ill-defined, so at one point I accidentally wandered outside of the park and a quarter mile into the desert. Luckily, somebody in the peace park lit a joint and I followed the smell back. I walked in on a cadre of young ladies with an older woman, howling like wolves in the center of a mandala. It was some sort of prayer for friendship. It made sense. Wolves make good friends.

The Girl was blowing up my phone, insisting that the Buddhist would close the parking gate and lock us in the stupa if we weren’t out by 6. I hit the Buddha with one of the mudras I remembered from my Zen days, then followed the Friend Wolf Sisterhood out to the parking lot, escaped before they sealed us in, and made a b-line for Phoenix.

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haha gottem

We attempted to order a pizza from a place next to the hotel called Mellow Mushroom. Just one. The girl on the phone didn’t know any part of her job, so I’m hopeful that she was new.

“Hello, Mellow Mushroom, I don’t know what’s on our menu or how much anything costs, how can I realistically help you?”

Eventually I mined her for enough data to conclude that they had a “house special” which is what any other pizza joint would call a supreme. They clotted it with every available meat, which struck even an unrepentant carnivore like me as excessive. I had them remove the ground beef. The total for one supreme pizza was $30, or which translates to 120 chicken nuggets or 10 parking spaces on Vortex Hill, so I cancelled the order and found a Little Caesars attached to a beer store. Dinner was a pepperoni Hot ‘n’ Ready and a six-pack of PBR. Bone apple teeth.