I was standing in a chapel in Poland , right in the middle of about 200 people. The priest was having us sit and stand a few times . God likes that sort of thing , apparently . Each and every one of the people there , I think , had brought a bouquet of flowers and the bouquets were all laid at the foot of the altar , near the funeral urn that held the ashes . A cloying smell filled the place .
I was standing when I really felt the first bang of dizziness . Everyone was standing , so I didn’t want to be the only guy to rebel and sit . I peeked behind me and it seemed that the old folks in the pew behind were sitting . I didn’t want to be the only one sitting . All eyes would hit me and wonder : Why’s the big American guy sitting ? If a few people behind me were sitting , too , it wouldn’t be so bad . When I turned a bit more to verify , I found that those people behind me were standing , after all . Through the corners of my eye it had seemed that they were sitting only because they were so short .
I wouldn’t be the only slug in the church to sit during standing time . No way . I think God wouldn’t’ve minded , being omni-something and , so , knowing my situation ; but the others would be critical . I was in a foreign country , after all . Don’t draw attention and try not to offend .
I saw a guy once in the British National Museum in London . Big cowboy hat . Texas drawl . You could hear him all over the museum bellowing his comments about this and about that . Everything’s better in Texas , of course . I think that was the general theme .
And then there was the loud half-crazy woman preaching Jesus last year down here by the river . Obviously American . Announced , to kick it all off, that she didn’t even know what city she was in . If you do draw attention , at least try not to offend.
Just brought to mind an experience once deep down in Mexico . My friend Jaime was setting up camp in the dark while his nephew was telling us about “signals” , trying to raise the alarm . We were out in the exact middle of nowhere . Jaime and I were telling him they were birds . Nobody’s around . Kid’s watching too many movies , I thought .
But , as it happened , they were signals . Suddenly , out of the darkness stepped six or eight nervous hombres swinging rifles way too haphazardly and shouting : ” Manos arriba ! ”
Manos arriba it was , under those circumstances . My brother Tom , the hospital administrator , was there with us , too . His manos were arriba and he was announcing loudly : ” Americanos ! Americanos !” I was thinking , oh , please don’t get us killed with this ” Americanos !” stuff . Tom was kind of jumping up a bit with each arriba . These rifle guys are already nervous enough without something else to consider. They were more scared than we were , I think .
Jaime was telling them something in Spanish I didn’t get , and suddenly they calmed down . I could feel the blood sluicing out again into my veins . Jaime was pointing at the can of insect repellent near his sleeping bag and the hombres all were looking over there thoughtfully . That turned the tables and our lives were saved . Story at 11:00 .
So , the funeral emptied from the chapel after the priest finished his eulogy and the violinist folded up her notes . Everyone streamed out side and boarded a bus , which took us along the narrow lanes of the cemetery to the gravesite . The flowers were there , too , in the bus with all the people , and by now I was reeling with fatigue and dizziness . I tried , for a bit , to be respectful and stand for a few final prayers , but I couldn’t make it . I moved a bit away and sat down .
I left Ada there and took a streetcar home . I nearly didn’t make it before collapsing onto the bed with chills and fever . I didn’t have energy to do anything for days but to sweat . Weird thoughts were swirling around in my fevered brain . I was figuring out the universe and for the first time seeing the intricacies of the inside of my mind . Great crash diet plan, too ; I lost ten pounds quickly .
I’m almost back to normal by now , though . Contemplating posts for this meandering blog. For a day or two or three there , in the middle of my bout with this vicious flu , I had it all figured out . It’s not at all what I’d thought , by the way . News at 11:00 .