Focusing My Stream of Consciousness
By Watching a Movie

I want you to understand what you are about to read. I’m serious. It isn’t some empty wish. I want you to understand what makes me tick. Therefore, allow me to flesh out my nearly eight decades of my journey down the yellow brick road of my life. I was born a month before my father was shipped off to the South Pacific during WWII. My mother took a bus from Merchantville, NJ to El Paso, TX so that her husband could see their newborn son. I couldn’t have been two months old.

My father safely returned home to my mother and charming me…and we all settled down to a quiet and restful life, which I thought was paradise. However, my father was transferred from the Philadelphia office where he worked to the company’s Pittsburgh office. Since my father didn’t go to college due to the war, he wanted to find a home in the Pittsburgh area that the best schools. In that way, he could prepare his three boys for college. He asked a real estate agent which community had the best schools. The answer was Mt. Lebanon. Mt. Lebanon had not only the best schools in the Pittsburgh area but the 19th best schools in the nation. In addition, it was also the richest area in Western Pennsylvania.

My father sacrificed everything for his three boys. We didn’t have the money to live comfortably in Mt. Lebanon. As for the schools, I was an above average student in an average school district in Pennsauken, NJ. Mt. Lebanon wasn’t for me the utopia that I was used to in NJ.

Mt. Lebanon taught me two things—I was dumb and poor. Now, being dumb in Mt. Lebanon meant that I got mostly Cs, several Bs, and occasionally an A. In comparison with my friend who had benefited from starting in kindergarten at Mt. Lebanon, I had to scrabble from sixth grade to twelfth grade to get the grades that I got. It took me half my life to realize that I wasn’t dumb nor poor. During the journey down my bumpy yellow brick road of life, I had to work hard in college, graduate school, and post-graduate school. Interestingly, at this end of my life, my forcing myself to succeed academically has paid off.

There are two things that I love to do: travel and teach. Those two items have allowed my to go to school overseas, teach overseas, and travel all over the world. My home contains what I consider priceless objects that I picked up on my many journeys. However, traveling is the best teacher. George Santayana said, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”

During my winter break from teaching in 2013-2014, I went to Myanmar, which many Americans including our government call Burma. I wanted to interview Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and I could also visit another British colony like America used to be. I worked extremely hard before I left the States and even while in Myanmar, and I failed to contact her. To this day, she isn’t aware of my desire to interview her. Interestingly, she is also known as the Lady.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Myanmar. Name a city or place within the tourist triangle, I’ll tell you about what I saw and what fascinated me. Go to Travels for a sampling of that Southeast Asian country. I especially love being around water whether rivers or lakes. Inle Lake was my nautical paradise. I would like to know how many Americans have been on Inle Lake more than I. However, Moh Moh, my tour guide, lived not far from the lake. While she was my guide, she had to pick up my itinerary after I left that area at her home. As chance would have it, she mentioned that I could meet Ti Ti, her nine year old daughter who was home on winter break.

We walked into her living room where Ti Ti greeted me with this statement in American English, “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to some games?” Forty-five minutes passed as we played Scrabble. Ti Ti not only won the game but also my heart. I failed to meet the Lady, but I met a young lady. Ti Ti was the link that united my family in the States and my family in Myanmar.

I returned for my second visit my family two years ago. If my first visit was wonderful, that visit pales in comparison to my second journey. However, that same comparison was replicated with my third trip during my winter break from teaching a half year ago. Ti Ti’s parents planned our family tour, which involved about three weeks of sheer fun and enjoyment.

Now, I know that my crescendo of excitement might seem to some as an overstatement. Trust me. First, it isn’t an overstatement. Second, I can’t explain it, and I was the one that was on our family tour. Since returning home, I have tried to articulate in words about that emotional high. It bothers me that I can’t explain how much I changed or why. The change wasn’t in the direction that I was going in my life, but it is about the intensity in my drive prior to visiting Myanmar. As a reader, I know how you must feel not being able understand that transformation. Hey, I can’t either.

In my twilight years, I have really come alive. However, early in my adult journey down my yellow brick road of life, I worked with a colleague of mine for several years. She was the only person that I trusted and who understood me. I left were we worked and so did she also. Over time, we lost touch with each other until one day she happened upon my website.

We have chatted every Saturday afternoon for over a year. My friend has acted as a sounding board for me. While she helped me four decades ago, her assistance now is far more important to me. She has either sent me books or suggested that I read various books. She knows about the perils about moving to Mt. Lebanon. My colleague knows of my love for teaching and especially teaching art history. We have talked about van Gogh and various movies about his life and my drive in life.

Additionally, our chats deal with other seemingly diverse topics. We have talked about my two dances with death and her near death experience of going down the tunnel. Both of our near death experiences have benefited each of us.

However, the one issue that all these chats have in common center around my family in Myanmar. She has heard nearly every story about my family over the past six years. My friend knows I consider that family my purpose in life during the waning years that remain. I started to raise money for the schools where my granddaughters attend. However, due to a long list of problems, it is on the backburner for a while. I’m focused on helping Ti Ti as she gets ready for college. All the schools are closed now due to COVID-19.

Last Saturday, I rattled on and on in my stream of consciousness monologue while my friend patiently listened.

Stream of consciousness

Then my colleague asked a question, which seemed to come out of nowhere. She asked whether I had seen the movie, The Magnificent Seven? I replied that had seen that movie when I was in high school six decades ago. I told my former colleague that I had written an essay about it. We talked about The Magnificent Seven, which was a spinoff of the Japanese movie, Seven Samurai.

The two older versions

However, my friend was asking about the more recent version, which came out in 2016, which I hadn’t seen. However, after our chat, I watched it a couple of times on Amazon.

The Magnificent Seven

Essentially, this newer version was about a small town of Rose Creek, which was a western mining town. It took place in 1879 when Baron Bartholomew Bogue controlled the town. The Rose Creek locals wanted to be free from the tyrannical control of Bogue. The town’s people attempted to set themselves free, which caused Baron Bogue and his henchmen to kill many of the locals. As one of the protesters stood up to Bogue, he was shot and killed him as the protester’s wife, Emma, watched.

Emma pulled herself together and rode off to a neighboring town to recruit some people to stand up to Bogue. As chance would have it, Emma ran into a federal warrant officer by the name of Sam Chisolm. After a brief conversation, Chisolm agrees to recruit six others which would become group of the Magnificent Seven. Emma was the boss lady and Chisolm was the recruiter.

The Magnificent Seven

As my friend recounted the 2016 film, she mentioned that I reminded her of one of the Magnificent Seven. It was Goodnight Robicheaux who was someone that fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and was a noted sharpshooter.

My namesake

It bothered me that I reminded her of a Southern soldier. She clarified that it wasn’t our political views that saw the comparison between Robicheaux and me. It was the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While that cleared the political issue, it muddied the psychological. Again, she clarified her statement by saying that I had been suffering from PTSD due to moving from an average school system to Mt. Lebanon. While I have doubt that a psychiatrist would consider that I was suffering from DSM-5 309.81, I see what she meant about Mt. Lebanon trauma.

I understood that going to school in one of the best school systems in America along with one of the wealthiest communities in Western Pennsylvania caused me to come up with those feelings of being dumb and poor. Nevertheless, that curse turned out to be a blessing.

However, after watching the movie, I see myself more as Emma. I want to recruit my students to fight off the same feelings that I felt about my lack of academic abilities.

I am Emma.

As for my family in Myanmar, I will do all that I can so that they don’t feel like I did back in Mt. Lebanon. As I said, I still recall how I felt in Mt. Lebanon, which I carried with me for many years. I won’t allow that to haunt my three granddaughters.

At the end of the movie, Emma reflects upon her effort to form her magnificent seven. “Whatever they were in life, here, at the end, each man stood with courage and honor. They fought for the ones who couldn't fight for themselves, and they died for them, too. All to win something that didn’t belong to them. It was - magnificent.”

Two closing thoughts. The movie was like my wonder drug, Modafinil. It allowed me to focus my stream of consciousness.

A more focused stream of consciousness

It also caused me to rally those who see Trump as Baron Bartholomew Bogue. Americans need to rally and vote Donald the Despicable out of office in November.