Wiring Kids’ Brains For Kindness

New discoveries in brain plasticity are fascinating- and make radical change of all kinds seem possible.

Reblogged from The Bully Blog


I was intrigued by an article in the most recent issue of Psychotherapy Networker that discussed implications for the latest discoveries regarding brain plasticity. MRI’s and other brain imaging technologies have become responsible for new discoveries about how we can change the way our brains are “wired.” Apparently,  parts of our brain can be developed like real estate. Ownership is determined through repeated behaviors and thought processes.

The author, Mary Sykes Wylie references psychologist Edward Taub. Taub found that stroke patients who lost the use of their left arm learned to compensate by overusing the right one. The right arm, in effect, bought up the unused real estate, leaving the right less opportunity to recover. When the right arm was immobilized, however, the left was more likely to keep trying and eventually to  recover lost ground, using it or losing it. Parts of the brain, it seems, are open for offers.

It is encouraging to know…

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Phone Call from Chief Herring

*monologue contains profanity & acknowledges sex*

Phone Call from Chief Herring

Narrator is hardboiled, male or female. (Or any gender identity.)

I’ve just wrestled Maggie out of her Spanx when

the phone rings.

Maggie hears the sound and sneers.

She says, “Don’t. You. Dare.”

But listen.

It’s the landline.

Maggie is naked on my kitchen table, ok? ‘Cept for stilettos and red nails and let me tell ya, it’s been a while–

but it was the landline. That old electronic giggle– dleeleeleeleelee–

Only the po call my landline. I’m a private investigator.

So I pick it up. I say, “What.”

It’s Chief Herring.

He says, “We got somethin weird tonight.”

Maggie, she’s red and white and mad all over.

[imitating Maggie] “Hang. Up.”

In my ear, Chief Herring, “We need your help.”

I say, “Whaat.”

I see Maggie’s takin off one of her stiletto heels. Phew. Fine. I don’t make her wear ‘em. She leaves um on cuz she thinks I like em. Really, she likes um. I fuck in fear of bein gored like a goddamn matador.

But Maggie is mad.

[Narrator into phone receiver] “Ok, ok, what?”

Okay, Maggie’s aimin the heel and I don’t like the direction this is headed.

Herring tells me, “Write down this address.”

I say, “Tell me. I’ll remember it.”

Maggie winds up. She throws her Mangle-O Blango, the damn heel, right at me! Wham! Hits the fridge.

Okay. Now I’m getting mad.

Ok! I’ll play.

I tell the Chief, all in my leisure, “You know what Chief? I will, in fact, write down that address after all. Hold on one second.”

I grab the notepad magnet thing from the fridge. Maggie lies back down on the table. Turns on her side.

What’s she doin?

She’s on her side, she opens her legs wide and- AUAUAOUouaugh!

Squeezes off two deadly farts! Two stinkin asshole farts! Aua! All the time lookin at me all premeditated in pure evil. All two, three, four nasty eyes of hers!

[Covers receiver, shouts to Maggie] “YOU FILTHY PIG!”

I say that. Yes, I say that, which, I know, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is about the worst thing you can say to the fat woman you love, especially when you owe her a big chunk of money. But I say it, and I say,

“I’m tryna take a goddamn call!…Go ‘head officer.”

I’ve barely written down 135 Rose Street- the address of the weird incident- when Maggie, she flops back across the table, reaches her arm back and grabs a gun out of the gardenias! Window was open, right? Nice night. She reaches out the sill into the windowbox. Stashed a piece in the flowers.

Cuz she was just that kind of girl.

I’m writin 135 Rose Street and now the gun is cocked in Maggie’s hand.

Maggie scootches her cootch to the end of the table. Eyes on me. All she knows is that she wants me to hang up. You better believe I know it too.

What Maggie doesn’t remember is that there’s a slippery golden puddle of supportive undergarment just under her feet, and she’s still wearin one Mangle-O Blango. She’s launchin herself off the table right onto the Spanx-

I slam the phone in the cradle-

Whoa! Wham! Blam! Stiletto skids on spandex. Maggie slips. Cracks her head on the tile. Gun goes off and Uuauauagh! Buries a bullet in my thigh!

The gun skitters across the floor into a roach trap by the sink.

I’m yodelin in pain. Clutchin my leg. I’ve never been shot before, ok? Let alone by someone I know! And Maggie, Maggie revives! Eyes wide, nostrils flared, revives! She is a goddamn bull! Keep that on the record! And she’s sittin up now, no, she’s on all fours. Dazed but murderous. Bare haunches shining with sweat, god help me.

You can object, you can object all you want, but I swore to tell the truth and nothing but.

So god help me when Maggie crawls over to where I’m half on the floor. I’m clutching kitchen cabinet knobs, tryin to stand.

Maggie grabs my shot leg, to raise herself up? Pull me down? Now we’re both on the floor. We’re scrambling towards the roach trap.

There’s a loaded gun on the floor of the trap, as you well know. But. There are also five Ben Franklins taped to the lid. You know, the domed lid on a roach hotel? Well, who’s gonna look under that thing, right?

Maggie takes a swing at the trap. Brutal! No finesse, this girl. Trap busts. Lid flies. Lands on its back like a turtle with no hope. Belly fulla hundreds all exposed.

Maggie ain’t lookin at the gun now. Maggie’s diggin a red nail under the tape and countin the money. I grab the gun. Roach shells splittin tween my fingers.

“You asshole!” That’s Maggie yellin.

While I’m tryna stand she’s throwin on her blue dress, about to hoof it. I point the gun. At Maggie, yes.

She says, “This isn’t even a quarter of what you owe me!”

She runs out the front door. I follow, limpy-gimpy. We’re out on the wet grass, in the dark, my lawn, as it were.

“Drop it or I shoot!”

She tells me, “You won’t.”

I say I fuckin will.

“Gun only had one bullet,” she says.

That’s when my shot leg, and something else, gives out.

“You fat worthless whore! You thieving cunt! Give it the fuck back! That’s all I’ve got!”

I’m already down, but that doesn’t stop her. Maggie leaps on me. Starts slappin me! Wrenches the gun loose, now she’s got it. She cocks it! It was loaded! The bitch!

I’m so mad, I’m not thinkin, I’m just tryin to get the gun back-

We’re rollin in the yard, wrestlin and howlin.

Mr. Stander, neighbor to the left, comes outside. He turns his garden hose on us, full blast.

We’re fightin, he’s sprayin, “Stoppit, dammit, you damn dogs!” He’s yellin. His eyesight wasn’t so great.

I dunno. I dunno anything, I’m so crazy with pain. I knee Maggie in the crotch. That’s how I get the gun back.

If she was mad before-

She bites me! Fuckin bites me! Right on the boob! The pectoral! Straight through the flesh and a little to the left! She chomps down on my fuckin heart!

I seize up involuntary! I spasm! I scream! I squeeze!

I squeeze the trigger.

It was not intentional. It was impossible to know where my hand was pointed. I knew nothing but pain and rage. You know it was an accident. A moment of passion. I didn’t mean it.

It was a tragedy the moment Maggie bit my heart, but that’s beside the point. I squeezed the trigger, the bullet left the barrel, made its trajectory across the lawn–and straight into Mr. Stander’s brain.

I know it is  no consolation that he was killed instantly. He croaked, um, passed instantly, and it musta been pretty quietly too, cuz it took a coupla seconds, minutes really, after the gun went off for me and Maggie to realize that the hose wasn’t sprayin us anymore. For a hot moment, I thought we were both dead, locked in some eternal hell-fight together. Then we heard the sirens and the cops pullin up.

As a professional private investigator- I am licensed, I remind the jury- I consider this whole incident a personal failing of mine. I paid little attention to Mr. Stander when he was alive and I’m not afraid to admit that I should have talked to him more. Noticed things. Then again, nobody could have guessed he had so many people buried in his cellar.

That said, I’m sorry I pulled the trigger before I even had a hint of suspicion. I wouldn’t call myself a hero, really. But I’m glad to have done my duty to society, even by accident.

What I resent is Maggie goin around tellin people it was her who pulled the trigger.

Even in the hazy moments of this episode- the fact that she bit me and that I pulled the trigger is clear.

Tell her that, she’ll say she roundabout shot the gun with her teeth.

It’s just not right for Maggie to take credit like that. Especially since whatever I owe her is five hundred dollars less now. If you see her, tell her that.

And, ladies and gentlemen, you can tell her I’d take that phone call again.


Note: This is one monologue from a larger collection of ‘Mystery Monologues.’ Seek my contact info by clicking on the “What?” at the top of this page regarding performance rights/permission. 

Retail Chronicles: Potty Talk, The Study

During an unpleasant stretch of employment, I conducted a study in a Macy’s bathroom. A study may be putting too fine a point on it. It wasn’t my intention to make any observations. In fact, I was doing my damnedest to repress all my sensory experiences in ‘the ladies.’ However, I found myself hiding in the second floor stalls too often to stay ignorant of certain emerging patterns.

If you don’t understand why hiding in a filthy department store bathroom might constitute a reprieve, I don’t think you’ve ever worked a retail job.  Frankly, it was a welcome break, basically a psychic vacation, to stand in a locked bathroom stall, clutching my skull, trying to breathe…but not too deeply. While stealing these breaks every workday, I scrabbled back into my own consciousness. I tried to gain some perspective on life. The restroom was a more fitting environment for this than I ever suspected.

Every restroom environment has its own culture. The second floor of the old art deco Macy’s building in Ardmore, Pennsylvania skewed towards middle-aged ladies. Rich ladies, save for Macy’s employees, for whom this was their only bathroom too. The sample was more racially diverse than you’d expect in Ardmore. Definite groups of bathroom behaviors emerged among the herd, during the year I hid out in this Macy’s bathroom. A few were common enough to comprise categories of patrons. I will submit a few samples below as a small contribution to the world of bathroom anthropology:


The Howlers and Whoopers

These ladies barrel into the bathroom, sirens on full blast, “Whoo! Hoo! Whoo! Oooh Hoo!” Installed, they whoop with relief, “pheeeeeeweee! whooooooaaaaaah…!”; and leave (always) with satisfied songs of, “mmmhmmm!…aaah.”

The Prayerful

The base and the divine intersect for these ‘excretrix.’ The Lord is invoked during, before and after the act. Sometimes, full mutterings of prayers will be uttered to ease their offal’s transition between realms.

The Dancers

The women who do a staccato dance on their toes while using the facilities. Some favor the cha cha. Others employ a mysterious morse code. Still others invoke the machine gun, impatiently drilling out their duty.

The Muzak Singers

They get into the soundtrack of their bathroom experience. They sing so earnestly, punctuating their solos with distinctly un-musical sighs.

The Soliliquist

If they think they’re alone, then the soliliquist will continue the conversation they’ve been having in their head all day, now fully or partially out loud. The acoustics amplify these strange poems. “I give up, I just…Lasagna, I could make the lasagna…stupid, stupid, stupid…okay, choose between peplum and polka dots and then go…there’s never any soap in these places, is there? Ha! What a dump…What is this world coming to…” The true bathroom soliliquist is rarer than the cell phone monologists- a demographic so vast and unabashed, and undoubtedly familiar, that I won’t waste any more words on them.