Saturday, December 20, 2008

If I were an Entrepreneur. . .

First, like any good story writer, I must give you the background story:

The East coast of the US and various areas in the middle parts of America are a full month into being pummeled by the throes of Father Winter's frigid wrath. What this can translate into, for the uninitiated, is sub-zero (that's Fahrenheit) temperatures, white-out driving conditions, and half-inch-thick ice covering everything from cars door locks to telephone wires to red-ripe fruit still hanging on to branch-tips with the tenacity of a small and vicious dog's clinging to an unwanted visitor's trouser cuff. Unfortunately, the powers that be do not cancel the world and it's incessant needs during such treacherous outdoor conditions. They can't really, for in certain parts of this vast and complicated country, such heinous weather lasts for months at a time, and allowing people to use the truly valid excuse of completely unsafe driving conditions as a reason to stay home from work could hypothetically ground all productivity, and even worse - all consumption - to a definitive halt. Yikes. How very un-American.

To battle this need for continued rat racing and good consuming, areas that are accustomed to such intense (and deplorable) weather conditions have management techniques in place. Plow trucks, salt trucks and sand trucks are among the most commonly used methods to battle the icy conditions that cause countless vehicle pile-ups and excruciatingly long commutes for those rueful rats racing to and fro all the livelong day. But there's one massive problem with those problem solvers. And that is. . .if the temperature drops much below freezing, (that's 32 degrees Fahrenheit), they are completely useless. That's right. When ice is falling from the sky, pummeling everything in sight, rendering electricity outages across miles of cityscape and leading to many an old-lady breaking her hip, those salt trucks are no good. No good at all.

So, what to do? What to do? Well, several cities have proposed an interesting new solution in recent years. That being. . .beet juice. You heard me right. Plain-old sticky-sweet sugar-beet juice. Reports would have you believe that it works like a god-sent miracle, melting even the thickest of ice off streets and highways with a quickness not seen since the senior Earnhardt dominated the NASCAR scene. So why isn't it used all over the frozen land? Why do massive swaths of American landscape remain locked under fractions of inches of treacherous solid water while the salt trucks sit idly in their service vehicle parking lots? Because beet juice is a little bit stinky, a tad bit sticky, and worst of all. . . a deep, dark, staining red.

People can't stand that the juice dyes the tires of their cars. And the sidewalks of their streets. And the soles of their shoes. It's red, it's vegetable juice, and it goes nowhere very very slowly. So this is where my entrepreneurial spirit (which I didn't previously know I had) bucks up and gets very excited. I have the perfect solution ,and it will make me scads of money (uhmm, and I'll be helping lots of people be safe and stuff which is really good, too. cough).

Have you ever read the series of children's books written by James Howe? If you haven't, I highly suggest you get on that, and quick. At any rate, the stories are all very cheeky and pseudo-scary, and center around a strange little rabbit named Bunnicula. The vampire rabbit. With clever titles like, "The Celery Stalks at Midnight," Howe details the antics of this juice-sucking vampiro-bunny as he hops from garden to garden, depriving the root vegetables in each row of their distinct colors and striking fear into the hearts of every subterranean tuber.

Well, if you don't see the obvious connection here than you're apparently not quite awake. This is what makes this idea so deliciously brilliant. First step is, I procure some nice fertile, open land and plant some beet seeds. Next, I hunt down Bunnicula (he's not hard to find when one follows the country's only trail of colorless rutabaga) and win him over with my personality, cheesy jokes, and stockpile of veggie juice. He'll be as juiced up as an alcoholic at an Irish-Catholic Christmas party. Then, I breed him to create a whole army of vampire bunnies. I will name them things like Incubunnyus and Lehoppystat, and we will all be friends. I will keep them sated with bulk v8 supplies procured from CostCo as I hatch part three of the plan: tend those beets on my beet farm and start weaning the fanged little furry fiends off their myriad juices and get their juice-lust honed in on the money-pot. . .sweet, sweet beet juice.

Once their thirst for the thick red nectar is insatiable, and their fangs drip and glisten in the moonlight with their desire for a fresh kill, I will release my army of vampire bunnies into the rows of juicy beets. I won't watch the carnage; my cruelty only goes so far. But once they have had their way with the heart-shaped roots, I will reap what I have sewn; I will harvest the red-juice-depleted vegetables, and press them for their remaining sweet nectar. This red-free beet juice will descend like a savior on the winter-embattled citizens of the land, bringing them freedom and traction and paths to productivity/consumption they never before imagined during the coldest of seasons.

And that is my plan. And I know it's ridiculous. And I don't care :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More than just a Dead Sea

Ah, the Mall. There is no finer petri dish of American, than the good ole' American Mall. It has everything you love to hate about America, and sometimes a fountain. Most of my contemporaries have abandoned the mall as a regular staple of their consuming habits. Only making the trip when absolutely necessary. I've had these same feelings as well at one time, but I've grown up a bit and realize that if I hate the Mall, but if I still have to go there for "this certain store" or for last minute gifts, then I'll continue to hate it unless I change my attitude. So now I treat the Mall like a trip to the circus! It doesn't happen often, and half the fun is in people watching. Like a reality soap opera.

At the Mall today, I noticed what seemed like an large increase in the center booths. You know the ones, they sell anything from cellphones to hermit crabs. Sweet Christmas Baby Jesus, there was a lot of them!

"Were there this many before? I'm not sure, it's been a while" I thought to myself while weaving in and out of them. I then realized that no body, and I mean nobody comes to the Mall specifically for these crap-stands and shit-booths. They are just bloated versions of the check out line of WalMart. But there were many more than I could ever remember.

I was then accosted by one of the Dead Sea Salt ladies, asking to see my hands. "Can I see your hands, please?"

"No, don't worry, I know you're just trying to sell me a product."

"No no no. I just want to show you the product," she reaffirmed.

I had a question I was dying to ask her. "How do you feel about what you do?"

"Oh many people have no idea about the Dead Sea. I came all the way from Israel for the season to show you this product."

"Yeah I know, they're all from Israel!" I retorted. "I want to know how you feel about having to harass people all day? You're not stupid, you know you have to bother people to sell your product. I just sat back there and watched all kinds of people wave you away. How do you feel about that?"

She held her composure well. "Well the customer has the right to say no, if they are not interested. I just want to introduce them to this product."

"No no no. Set all that aside," I told her. "Outside of the job and the product and what you are paid for. How do you feel about having to badger people all day, personally?"

"This is just a job, I am a nutritionist. I come from Israel over the season to introduce people to the wonderful salts of the Dead Sea!"

She wasn't listening to me. My anger flared from her lack of coherence, and I thought it would be sporting of me to threaten calling security on her for touching me. She did touch my hand. I did present it, "but I never said yes, officer of the peace."

I let this manic notion go.

I realized that in seeking her answer, I have now only created two more questions.
Was she A: Sticking to her sales persona so well, that she would not allow me to see the real her?
Or was she B: Genuinely passionate enough about these damn Dead Sea Salts that she really did believe in them to the point of spending her weekends in high heels and product soaked har, badgering the weak willed until they tried her faith in hand products? A belief that is so strong that she cannot transcend beyond these damn Dead Sea Salts, and think objectively about how she is interacting with people everyday?

"So your telling me, that you believe in the product so much, that it's more important than how you feel personally about your job?"

"Yes!" she didn't hesitate to say.

"WOW, you have some fortitude! That all I needed to know," I said, and they were my last words to this absurd individual. Walking out of the Mall, I was only flooded wondrous confusion, and even more questions. Either she is stupid with faith, or she will go home with my question rolling through her mind. Over and over for weeks, till she either wakes up to her own sorry reality, or falls off the deep end. I better be careful, these sort of questions might be dangerous to the general public. Should I even worry, I was never asked to save anybodies soul?

Who am I kidding, she thinks I'm the crazy one!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Socially Acceptable Stalking?

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence.

Everyone is a stalker on the internet, to some degree. No one wants to admit it though, because they don't want to view themselves as a stalker. Who does? It's a nasty label, and we have all experienced situations that border on, or even cross, the stalker line. So the bigger question is; At what point do we decide that this behavior is actually stalking?

So you may have looked at my profile, unbeknownst to me, and you chose not to message me so that I wouldn't have the impression that you are a stalker. Relax, people do this all the time. Why? Because it's easy, and can be done from the comfort of your own home. Real drive-by stalking of the past takes work, and most Americans are too lazy for that. Some journalists have claimed that this modern stalking behavior is voyeuristic, or at least borderline. My problem with that is such a word implies some sense of sexual gratification, which I feel is an over sensationalized attempt to play into the public's appeal of anything taboo and sexual. People are not browsing profiles for sexual gratification, a small percentage maybe, but not the majority of us.

My theory for why so many of us stalk the internet, is that it gives a false sense of empowerment. Being "in the know" is a common desire for any human. We crave to understand what is going on around us, even if it is trivial. Just look at tabloid sales for example. I have no facts or figures to wow you with, but it's pretty common knowledge that gossip sells. This is the whole core of what fuels traffic to sites like Facebook and MySpace. We have the power to know when our friends break up with their stupid boyfriends or shiftless girlfriends, before they even have a chance to tell us in person. Or we know what literary tastes someone has without having to take any effort to get to know them, like we used to do back in "the day". It's just society's next big step towards a collective consciousness. But it's not as scary as that sounds.

Why is it not so scary? Why do I feel it's a false sense of empowerment? Because it's a watered down version of the truth, of reality. The information is relatively unproductive knowledge, for the most part just like celebrity gossip, that is of little value for the pure fact that it is so watered down. Everything on these sites is filtered by every user to some degree. Since we only post what we are comfortable with the world knowing, it's only part of the story, part of that person. Some people seem to pour their heart out, but I can assure you that it's still only the tip of their personal iceberg. Most people will steer plenty clear of divulging anything that may incriminate them, or bring about unwanted scrutiny. It's only natural to not open your vulnerabilities to attack. We have to be aware of this when reading the information of others online. Since most of the info is of little significance or value, why do we waste our time? I'm not sure really, but maybe most people are really just unaware of how filtered all these wall posts and status updates are. This leads them to think the information is more valuable than it really is, which in turn gives a false sense of empowerment. For knowledge is power, but trivial knowledge really only produces trivial power.

Our ability and methods of communication are rapidly increasing in this new millennia, but it's a double edged sword. The easier it is for others outside our physical proximity to connect with us, the more we naturally have to guard what we divulge to them. Having a face to face, heart to heart, with a friend cannot be replaced with a Facebook status update. I'll be damned if I see the day anyway.

What I find a real test of will power, is avoiding the urge to seek out this unproductive knowledge. That false empowerment can become addicting, just like any form of power. Take for example, women who I have dated in the past. I use this example because it involves people who I have been very intimate with, but that intimacy is now something of the past, and I have a different dynamic with them than my relationship with some dude who shared a drawing class with me four years ago. Sure, I'm still friends with these women, and even friends on Facebook. I can hop over to their profile anytime I want, but I don't, unless I have a reason to send them a message or something. Even when I know they visit my profile (hacks on the internet can reveal a lot more info than people think) and rarely leave me a message or any other sign they've payed a visit, I still resist the urge to silently look at their profile.

Maybe I'm weird, cause it seems a lot of people visit their ex's profiles, but I think it's only because they crave information on them. That craving can be even greater when it's someone who you know as close as an old boyfriend or girlfriend. Don't get me wrong, it's completely normal to wonder how an old girlfriend or boyfriend is doing, especially if you parted on good terms. But there is a difference between sending them a letter or email asking how things have been, and scouring their profile reading and judging every wall post from the other people in their life. I feel like it's snooping in on them. It makes me question my motives for clicking on their profile in the first place, if I didn't go there to actually send them a message. I guess that I'd like to think that if there was anything important that I should know, that they would be sure to inform me.

Now here's a paradox for you: If I'm aware that everything posted is filtered information that is consciously displayed for everyone to see, then is it really snooping when you visit their profile, if nothing private or personal is there to read anyway? Maybe not. But, I am aware of the deception of one's own perception. I've heard too many stories about so and so leaving comments on someone's profile, when someone just dumped whoever. I've had to tell a few of my friends to stop scouring their ex's comments, looking for dirt. I'm sorry dear, but any floozie who leaves a comment on your ex boyfriend's wall is going to be suspect in your mind.

I guess that may just be the main reason I steer clear of such behavior; because I don't want to give my imagination any reason to make up stories that are based on its own false pretenses. Stories that may cause emotional responses and thought loops that are not only unfounded, but just waste mental energy. My imagination is wild enough, thank you very much. It's my responsibility to keep it in check.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A steaming pile of Prop 8

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence.

I forgot to mention this, but your hood will be an essential ground zero point for stories on Porp 8. For the many stories for and against Obama that I will no doubt find in the south, must be contrasted by the debacle that has become Prop 8.

More power to all the negros who finally reached their day in the sun, and history owes them, no doubt. But Prop 8 is just another steaming shit pile that America can't ignore.

Lets bring some abstract and hypothetical math to the situation. If the gay population is ten percent of the population as a whole (which I always thought was a low estimate), then you will always be part of a minority. No matter how much the American population increases, you will still only have ten percent who actually carry themselves as openly gay. You can't just pop out a bunch of gay babies to increase the ranks and eventually out vote the rest of the country. Hell, it's hard enough for you to adopt! So unlike the racial minorities in this country, who are gaining ground and becoming the majority, the only option you have is to teach the ever increasing ignorant straight population that you are NOT trying to put your dick in their ass! My own crack-pot theory is that buggery is at the core of their fear, just think of how many men cringe at the thought of a colonoscopy. But that's off topic here, and I could touch more on it in the book.

The point being that you have to fight against the fear that breeds in the religious and isolated straight American. Not an easy task. No, but I do believe you have the advantage of the modern technology that is already chipping away at the old sour-puss religions in this world. For I really feel that is what will bring about its undoing. The spread of information will show the younger generations that the gay population is just as "normal" as the straight.

Let me know what you think of those points. Send word. I'd love to use some of your stories in the book, and think of a crafty pseudonym for yourself that I can use. I'll capture them in person once I arrive there. Can't wait for you to parade my ass around the city.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Was I dreaming, or driving? No, no I'm driving all right, and I appear to still be safely between the white lines.
Excellent! I'll just close my eyes for another second or two.
Sweet Jesus you idiot! Pay attention. You still have to pick up beer in Platteville.
Freeways always do this to me. When the only mental function necessary to operate the motor vehicle consists of minor steering corrections over great spans of time, I fall asleep. I'll be the first to tell you that this may be what brings Death knocking on my own door.
Death. That scallywag prick has handed me my second invite to a funeral in less than a month. I'll be damned if I give him a chance to cash my check today.
I struggle the rest of the way to Platteville's WalMart, where I commenced napping in the parking lot immediately. I later wake up with frozen feet screaming to be moved. I hustle in and grab a pack of Bush Lite; the Walter, and Grant County beer of choice.

I arrive early. My cousin is there, and we chat briefly as I postpone the inevitable moment of approaching the death bed. I do not want this. But I must take this, for it will shape me thereafter.
Following the caretaker into the dinning room, I sit in a chair next to the hospital bed. I distract myself with the humor of this gigantic hospital bed that is devouring a good percentage of the square footage of this room. This room we should be having Thanksgiving dinner in. Damn, back to reality. Those nasty meat hooks always catch up to me faster than I would like.
Mother warned me of this moment.
This moment, which has been waiting for me here in this room, is really just a combination of sensory perceptions. The sight of her frail body. The smell of old bones and tired flesh. The sound of her raspy breathing. These are not pretty things in and of themselves, but when they are perceived by my brain and immediately referenced against 25 years of memory, the meat hooks dig in deeper.
"She hasn't eaten in six days." Says the caretaker. "They usually pass between seven and ten days after they stop eating."
I hear this, and comprehend it. But it's just a trickle in the thought-torrent I am trying to wade through. Sadness: Christ, she's so small and frail from the last time I saw her. Cynicism: She's just a breathing pile of flesh and bones under that blanket. Anger: Don't think that you asshole, that's fucking Grandma.
These are only the emotions I can adhere with logical labels, but there are many swirling around that are too abstract and powerful for words.
I hold her hand, which is warm, but lifeless. Her skin on her hands still feels really soft. She always did have soft hands, when she used to spit on her thumb to wipe dirt off our faces.
I need another beer.

By dinner time, the grieving party was in full swing. Whiskey Cokes, Bush-Lite, and fresh pizza from Burton Tavern. Grandpa was telling his dirty jokes per usual. The uncles were giving each other shit. The aunts were helping. Grandma was breathing, and listening in the next room.
What would she say about all this? She would probably just sit back and say, "I tried to raise you kids right!" Boy, she did a fine job.
I was now full of enough beer and whiskey to confidently give the Matriarch her final goodbye. I sat next to her in the dim light of the dining room. The chatter of the kitchen mixed in with the hum of her space heater. My brother came and sat in the chair beside me.

We reminisced over old stories. Like the time these two little shits tried to race across Grandma's half acre garden, in muddy March. We ran like Jesus himself, until our mortal little boots began to sink deeper and deeper into the mud.
Slog. Slog. Slo. Slo.
We were trapped! I had seen quicksand in the movies before, even at the age of seven, so I knew I had to act quick.
"Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!" My little brother and I began to squeal. Paul Harvey must have been over, for she heard us inside the kitchen. Stepping out the front door, she asked us rather tartly, "What's the matter?"
"We're stuck!" was shouted as we writhed and struggled to show her the seriousness of the matter. She headed back in the house for a moment, then returned outside and walked the distance across the front yard and driveway, as we helplessly watched her approach. Was she mad? I hope not. Instead of yelling at us, she pulled out her camera. She proceeded to take humiliating pictures of us, pictures that still exist to this day. We both wanted out of that mud hole something quick, but we waited like humbled boys in dunce caps. For that woman was the only person who could save us, and she wasn't one who listened to a child that begged. We couldn't do anything but let her get her kicks.
She said she would get stuck herself if she came in after us. This wasn't what we wanted to hear. So she headed back in the house for a moment, and back she came with a stack of cookie sheets. Grandma placed one right after the other, like giant steel Lilly pads in the mud, stepping her way out to us. She then pulled us out, and sent us to hop our way out on the cookie sheets. That right there was magic for this little shit. For it was that moment when I realized maybe Grandma isn't just a grouchy old lady after all. Maybe she's really smart. She sure was that day.

This is when the bloodletting begins. The tears start to flow. Then sobs begin to sputter. My brother rests his hand on my knee, and I crumble. I cry for the Grandma that left us a while ago already, but who still carries on in my heart. For she has touched it more than even most of those hooligans in the kitchen.

After drinking then crying myself into a stupor, I want nothing more than to just rest my weary head. The family that is still drinking in the kitchen, instructed me to take the field road up to Mom's. So, driving when I absolutely shouldn't, I follow the winding "field road" that leads from my Grand parent's house up to the house where I grew up, which used to be my great grand parent's house. This road that I've traveled thousands of times, brings back many many memories in my bleary consciousness.
I make the short trip with no troubles, and stumble into the garage. In the darkness I can see two beasts rousing my way. "Da Puppiesss!" I slur while reaching down to pet them. Lassie and Cassie are far far from being puppies anymore, but I still address the two miniature collies this way.
This is where things start getting blurry, but I do remember crawling up the garage steps to the foot of the door. Puppies sniffing and licking me all the way. I fell on my back and let them crawl all over me. They pranced around me in the dark and let out little grunts of restrained elation. They've always sounded that way when they are happy to see you. It was the most wonderful feeling, being showered in the unconditional love of these two animals, while I giggle in the drunken stupor that has put me down on their level. In more ways than one. I resigned myself to spending the whole night right here. This puppy love was all I need to wash my troubles away.
The door to the office opened up into me. "Craig?"
"Sorry Mom, sorry. I was just saying hi to the puppies."
"I've had those nights too." Mother said as she helped carry my weary head to the couch.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Last Respects to the Matriarch

This morning all plans have been up-ended. I must now hit the road and pay my last respects to the Matriarch. A venerable soul slipping away with the body that flourished it. I always knew this was coming, but I also knew I could never prepare for it.

Shotgun therapy with my brother will be necessary to pull my mind free from any logic traps that will no doubt try to ensnare me. I better pack the pistol.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Go to Church!

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence.

Life's a wave dear. One night you can be having the time of your life, then the next morning it can seem so futile, distant and meaningless. Enjoy the ups, but remember the lows are only temporary.

Here is something you should read; The Myth of Sisyphus. Read this Wikipedia article, and it will give you a basic understanding of what the book says. Remember that it is one interesting outlook on the whole Absurdity dilemma, but don't hold faith in any sound alternative to religion.

I'm starting to believe that we all have to make up our OWN meaning to Life. For if what each of us considers "reality", is really only made up of our perceptions of outside stimulus (what we see, smell, hear, touch, and taste), then each of us are only living in our own reality. Sure, there is a real common world out there that must be dealt with by all of us, we can't forget that. But if that real common world still has to be perceived by each of our brains, brains that are all different in their own little ways, then each of us will no doubt have a differing perception of what the "real" world is.

So if we all see the world a little differently, then why must there be one true Meaning for all of us? Why believe in any religion? Why not make your own? We can each make up a church for ourselves, and it's so exclusive that only the God of the church itself is allowed to attend mass. Yourself.

Are we not all gods ourselves on this damn planet? We may not be immortal, or have amazing super powers, but we have a highly evolved consciousness. This allows us to study and learn and create and destroy. For good or ill.

Start laying the foundation for your own church. This can hold any sort of beliefs you want, because it's your church. Borrow all the really good ideals from any religion you have learned from, and leave the bullshit out. You can even make up your own rules as you go. So long as they are life affirming and honest, you're on the right track.

That's what I am doing. I'm only now starting to lay the foundation, for the shotgun shack I worshiped in prior was blown away this summer. It will take a lot of hard work and heavy notes, but I'm making progress. I have a good feeling about this temple.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Defusing the Game

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence.

One thing I've learned from constant observations of the Patterns of Life, is that so many people play their cards close to their chest. They do this in all types of relationships, and I have noticed that it's really prevalent in dating.

Another pattern within this larger pattern, is that when Person A approaches the boundries of Person B's super-ego, B will pull their cards even closer. It's those moments when a question or situation that strikes at a person's core and forces them to take a stand for what they believe in, no matter who is looking, that they will either stand tall or pull their cards in closer. The closer someone pulls their cards in, the more they are afraid or uncertain of where they themselves actually stand. These situations are a great way to shed some light on how self aware they really are.

The problem I've encountered, is that when someone pulls their cards in, the other person will pull theirs in as well. It's a natural defense mechanism for self preservation: If someone isn't going to be vulnerable around me, I'm not going to be vulnerable around them. The sad part is that this is actually the core of "The Game". We've all played it, and it's bigger than what most of us think of when we talk about Players and The Game. The bigger Game is that awkward feeling each other out phase that happens when two people are starting to get to know each other when they are dating. It becomes a game of dancing around each other. You want to know more about them, but you're uncertain how much of yourself to share with them. How vulnerable are you comfortable being? This all ties into "Presentation of Self" and Impression Management", which you may already be familiar with, or I could rant about later. Everyone plays to a certain degree, but relationships with good communication will quickly become comfortable to the point where the game is no longer needed.

The Game itself can be diffused, but it takes a strong will and a risk of a backlash. The quickest way to diffuse The Game, is to put your cards on the table. Think of life like poker, if you put your cards on the table, The Game changes. There is no strife with someone who shows you their cards. You don't have to out wit someone who puts it all on the table, there is no longer anything to out wit. It's just honesty laid out flat for you to see.

There is still the risk that the other person will not agree with the cards that they see, which is the whole reason people play the game in the first place. Even if they don't like what they see, at least you can cut out the weeks or months of ambiguity involved with trying to get down deep in order to understand someone to the core.

So I had a moment where I was a little paranoid. It happens, but it wont go away if I just ignore it, so I took a chance by laying it out on the table for you to see clearly. Because you can see it clearly, then you can easily return your response clearly. BAM! Honest communication plain and simple. It's really only hard because it seems to go against everything we have learned growing up and being socialized by not only our family, community and church, but the growing beast of modern media. The trial and error of modern dating leads all of us to start playing The Game, because we have grown accustomed to everyone playing it at least a little bit.

If you want to be a real social rebel, don't harden your defenses like a "badass", fuck the system by NOT playing The Game. It will quickly weed out the people not worth your time. Those who are afraid to even look at their own cards, are the ones who will hold them really close. These are the types who will run away as if you have leprosy. It's not fun for the ego to scare people away, but in the grand scheme of things: good riddance to bad rubbish!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tootsie, Fuck Off!

For the past two weeks I've been playing a maddeningly (what a ridiculous word) cyclical game with my fantastically obese cat, Tootsie. It was only just now that I actually realized it was a game.

I would be sitting at the desk, writing a bunch of wild words in some order that I can only hope will be digestible enough for the masses. A standard weeknight as of late. Then Tootsie will start to howl at me from my feet. I ignore her like the small child she is, but after about seven to nine howls into it, I just start cussing out venomous obscenities between my feet without taking my eyes of my work. But the words "Tootsie, Fuck Off!" bounce off that pink little cow nose of hers. Only sticks and stones for Tootsie.

She puts her front paws on the edge of my chair and rests her head inside my crotch, nothing sexual, just a "hey, what'cha doin' up there?" This begins to really distract me. I have lots of work to do, that no one is paying me for. So I reach for the laser pointer.

That little red dot zips around the room faster than any mother fucking fly Tootsie has ever seen. Zip, Zam, Zoom! My little cow-cat gallops off, udder swinging to and fro, in chase of something that can never be caught. That fact alone is proof that they don't have a conscious, for it would blow their tiny little minds.

I'm laughing at how dumb I can fool my cats into behaving. Using their natural instincts for my amusement and leaving them no satisfaction of the kill. Would PETA support this? Wait, I eat meat, never mind. The real problem is I'm just not getting any work done.

So back to writing gibberish. Then, sure enough, five minutes later ... there's a pussy in my crotch again!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Preparing for the Great American Decline

The following is an excerpt from my correspondence

For as excited as I am about the winds of destiny taking us where they may, I've not spent much time looking for existential destinations to steer towards while on the way. I do want to hit the brothels in, was it Carson City? Guaranteed to meet some characters there, and a whole different angle than any the mainstream media is covering. How are the shadier sides of the Capitalistic market doing? Maybe that's where all this fucking money went to. Who knows? These things still seem so abstract and jumbled, no matter how many Newsweeks or Times I read on the toilet. But forget about all those imploding banks and starving whiskey gentry. My only concern is that my credit card works, and that it can pay for our much needed sponge bath from LEGAL hookers. There is no better sketch of the American spirit; than two soiled and disheveled men of the road dragging their soggy asses into a LEGAL brothel full of beautiful women. Women who fill up two tremendous tubs of soapy water for us to soak away our weary troubles, while they slowly sponge us down. Washing away a week of dirt. While we chat in a friendly manner about the current economy, and how it is, or isn't, affecting them. A good hour to chat and relax in a scene so decadent, that only MasterCard could afford it.

Other than that, there was this porn star turn call girl who works in the Greensboro, NC area. I'm going to solicit an interview with her about the porn/call girl economies. I've seen her work, but that can't be mentioned. For I am no fanboy who she can "charge" to be interviewed. I am a respectable author traveling on research for his next article. She will be privileged to POSSIBLY get a mention in my upcoming book. Yes my dear friend, it's all in how you sell it. For in the end, she's still sucking cocks for a living, and I make brochures for window blinds. It sounds heavy when I put it like that, but I do give her props for making the most bread she can with what shes got. That's true American spirit!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote or Die

Four phone calls and two voicemails from friends and family requesting you call them back immediately; will never lead to a conversation about Hannah Montana being exposed as a thirty two year old man. This is going to be bad.

I call my brother back. “What happened?”

And that was it. That was the moment my friend Eric died.

He actually died around 9pm the night before, but in the universe inside my head, he was still alive until I got that phone call. Confusion, tears, sobs and a lot of pacing back and forth took place. I was already running late for work. With the proper medicine, I was able to turn into a cubicle zombie who moaned his way to the end of the day.

By Saturday I learned that the wake would take place on Monday, followed by the funeral Tuesday. To accommodate this with my work schedule, I ended up spending the day as a zombie again all alone in my cube on Sunday.

On Monday, I went to work early in order to make it back home for the wake and I would then take the day off Tuesday. My associates expressed their sympathies, but equally if not more fervently, their concern that I get back in time to vote.

Vote? “You think I’m actually worried about voting right now?” Brow furrowed, blood boiled, muscles tensed. It finally became apparent, like some omnipresent force that lurked in the shadows this whole time, and I’ve only now found the right pair of eyes to see it; The Church of Politics.

I’ve never heard of it before, and this was the first term that came to mind, but I’m sure it’s been written about before. All of my original ideas have been pondered and discussed at length by old dusty dead men hundreds and even thousands of years before me. This I’ve humbly accepted. But a quick Google search only brings up articles talking about religion and politics as separate entities, but I did find this excerpt from a discussion forum that is close to what I am hinting at: “Religion and political leadership are so intertwined across eras and cultures because they are about the same thing: performing the miracle of converting unrelated individuals into a group.”

Everyone has become a member of The Church of Politics. You belong to a party, which is like your church, and you stay with that church for the rest of your life. Why? Well because your parents belonged to that church, or maybe it’s because it’s because your parents were Catholic and you’ve now joined a Protestant church in order to differentiate yourself from them. Then of course, if one church has been really popular with the townspeople for some time, they may start to get comfortable and kick up their feet. This leads to sermons that begin to lack in the substance and inspiration that should be feeding the core beliefs of their constituents, who are now in dire need of spiritual guidance (like good social policies). Well if the church in power sits on its ass too long, then those independent parishioners will flock to another church.

The funny thing about these different Churches is that they all belong to the same religion, The Church of Politics, so they all celebrate their biggest holiday every four years on the first Tuesday of November; The Presidential vote. If you don’t vote, it’s as if you skipped Christmas Mass. Straight to HELL!

After many hours of agitated thinking and pondering this discovery, I realized that blasphemy was the only course of action. I was not going to vote, because MY vote didn’t matter.

I realize all the bile and venom this must regurgitate in my readers, friends and peers, but hear me out.

We do not vote for the President and Vice President when we go to the polls, we vote for electors in the Electoral College. According to Wikipedia; “Rather than directly voting for the President and Vice President, United States citizens cast votes for electors. Electors are technically free to vote for anyone eligible to be President, but in practice pledge to vote for specific candidates and voters cast ballots for favored presidential and vice presidential candidates by voting for correspondingly pledged electors … the ticket that receives the most votes statewide 'wins' all of the votes cast by electors from that state.” So by the rules of the Electoral College, since most of Wisconsin (definitely Madison) will be going for Obama, he will get all of our electoral votes. The national populace vote doesn’t count here people; don’t you remember how Bush fucked us in 2000?

Now this is not some sort of nihilistic statement to “screw the system”. I would have just voted for McKain, or Nader if I wanted to be an asshole like that. I just did the math. Obama has more than enough support to take all the electoral votes in our state, without MY vote. I stress the “my” because this is not some argument that ALL voting doesn’t count. I’m thankful that Obama had enough support in this state. If it was a really tight race like 2004, I would have felt more obliged to make a difference, but that pressure just wasn’t there. It was just that “Vote or Die” mentality that seems to have brainwashed everyone around me. I somehow snapped out of it.

One of my best friends since middle school wrapped his car around a telephone pole. What makes things even more confusing is that our friendship became distant after he returned from Iraq. He was in Platteville and I was in Madison, this is true, but he was a different guy from the one I grew up with. I watched from a distance, a very slow decline in who this person was to me. I was making horrible life choices on my own while stories would trickle up from friends about him essentially giving up on life. My friend who shared an on stage seat with me for “Rage Against The Machine’s” Chicago show in 99’, was being chewed up by that Machine.

People change, we all do. It’s just hard to see friends getting stuck in the ruts, especially when you just break free from one yourself and now have the momentum and blind fervor of a man on a mission. I never thought he was a failure; he was just stuck in a rut.

We chatted only two or three weeks ago over Facebook. I was unveiling my plans for my custom distressed textiles to him. We made small talk, and then concluded that we needed to hang out soon. That was it. That was the last communication I had with him. A little bud in what might be a rekindling of an old root system. Just like that, the bud turns to ash, with nothing left but an old and extensive roots of personal history.

After the wake and funeral, I now find myself sitting here with the same mixed bag of feelings. I’ve learned to not try and reason with that which cannot be defined, so I wait, letting things out as they must. Grief spasms, anger ruptures, morose stares. Let it all hang out. This is much more comforting than waiting in line at the polling center.

If you still think it was wrong of me to proclaim that MY vote didn’t matter, then you’ve missed the whole point, and you are a very faithful parishioner. I want to thank all of my friends who helped me over the weekend, and to all those who still made sure to get their vote in as well. I have to also thank the Electoral College’s stupid rules for allowing me to justify my argument. I actually don’t support the system, but tonight is not for banter like that.

Tonight I sit alone, and hope.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

All Hail the King of the Hipsters

Knees were weak and I was already getting pugnacious with a cute butch over the coffee pitcher. Just another Sunday morning, paying others to cook food that is no better than what your lazy entitled ass could have done in your own kitchen. But fuck it, this is America, and we’ve learned how to not be so hard on ourselves.

After eating like a starving raccoon, I steered our conversation in the direction of an interesting article I recently read, titled; “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization”

To quickly sum up this article, I’d say: Hipsters are kids who hate everyone for being just like them (this happens in all scenes). But, the Hipster is the first “counter culture” that will not acknowledge themselves. The word Hipster is only used with disdain or in a self-deprecating manor. They will deny belonging to such a group, but at the same time wearing clearly stereotypical fashion elements of a Hipster. This “counter-culture” is a dead end because the Hipster’s “self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution.”

This article raises a lot of great points, and I started conjuring up my own questions: How long can you define yourself by somebody else’s art? Is tattoo removal the new rebellious thing to do? Cause, it’s definitely no-longer rebellious to get them. How long can you go out on the scene dressed like an ironic jack-ass, before you eventually become that jack-ass? Did our parents really raise us to put fashion over food? Whatever happened to color-coordination? Why isn’t it cool to be a Hipster?

Wait a minute. Oh shit I can see it now. If nobody wants to be a Hipster, then why couldn’t I be “King of the Hipsters”? It’s perfect. Here is this group of people that could be doing something more creative than taking terabytes of crappy digital pictures of each other, but no one will stand up and take the reins. I could take the crown unchallenged. Who would dare fight me?

The kicker here is that your true hipsters would never join me. They’d scoff and have another cigarette and scoff/cough some more, inside secretly despising me and this burst of brilliance.
I may not have the best credentials for the job. I actually grew up on a farm. I’ve been a part of the working class. I have true Hill-Billy in my blood. My parents haven’t paid for anything since high school. And I can’t stand those shitty sunglasses, or those fucking bandannas (Go rob a train!).

Jesus, calm down. You’ll never win over the constituent if you belittle them like that. Maybe these stray cats could be herded with high voltage cattle prods and a trail of cheap sunglasses. What would I do with such a following??
Hold on. Back up the tape.

If the true hipsters would never join me, then how could I be the true King of the Hipsters? There is a paradox here. If one of the core elements of being a true hipster requires that you cannot acknowledge that you are a hipster, but then you are in fact a true hipster. So if I claim to be the King of the Hipsters, would I no longer be a TRUE hipster? Would anyone that follows me as king, just be a hipster poser? Would there be some horrible rip in fashion-space-time continuum that gives everyone terrible haircuts from the 80s and pubic hair from the 50’s? Messing around with paradoxes can bring all sorts of trouble. Trouble I don’t need with a hangover like this.

Wait, I see the angle now. This is like a tax loophole. Sure, by proclaiming to be King of the Hipsters, you automatically are exempt from being judged as a true hipster by the powers that be. At the same time, you can continue doing the hipster clichés you enjoy, since you publically and proudly carry yourself as King of the Hipsters. That’s the American spirit!

So that means I can still upload party pictures to Facebook and expand my social network with the patriotic mentality of quantity over quality. Yes, I can keep adding more friends, whose last names I never knew anyway. So much to do and so little time, I better get to work.

Right … just a minute. I haven’t checked MySpace in a week.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Man Logic needs to shut his mouth, and go watch Wheel of Fortune!

The following is a selected excerpt from my correspondence.

Ah, the ever familiar battle between the Head and the Heart. Old Man Logic and the beast called Emotion. Like Palestine and Israel, it will never end. This sounds like a thick pill to swallow, but there are hopeful options: Peace Treaties.

I'm starting to learn that neither side is good or bad, wrong or right. But, the two of them both reside in this head of mine, and they have to learn to work together before they end up killing each other and possibly my body as a whole.

After my divorce, I think I became a bit afraid of how strong my emotions were for someone who constantly shat on my self esteem. After about a year on group therapy, I finally started to feel like I was figuring it all out. Essentially I didn't trust those rotton emotions, and I would start to rely on Old Man Logic to guide my decisions. Well that's all fine and dandy until that Goddamn bastard LOVE jumps on your back after a couple months of dating and digging a lovely new lady friend.

LOVE starts to whisper sweet nothings in your ear, making you perform all kinds of inefficient subtleties for this other human being. Opening doors, back rubs, listening to stories about work drama, giving advice about work drama (then learning to never give advice about work drama ever again), small gifts when you are out of town, kisses on the top of the head, back scratching, spooning, prolonged gazes, fingers through hair, notes on windshields, surprise Chinese carryout, and buying an extra toothbrush. And hopefully the LOVE whispering in his/her ear will start telling them just as many inefficient subtleties that they Must perform for you.

None of these things are logical, if you think about it. There is no reason to run my fingers through the back on my girlfriend's hair while she is driving, or rubbing her knee for a brief moment while I futz with the radio. But, I feel compelled to do these things from time to time. I'm not doing this because I'm clingy, but I also don't do it because I feel obligated to. I just feel it. It feels good to convey that emotional bond and connection with another human being. I can't explain it with cold logic, because it just seems absurd when you really try.

Take for instance the scientific view that we mate and pair up as a way to best raise our future generations of children with the support of a family system and local community. Sure, these seem like logical reasons to explain why we form intimate relationships with others, and some people may actually take some of these things into consideration when choosing a mate. But this is not LOVE!

LOVE is stupid, chipper, whimsical, electric, smitten, chaotic, engrossing, magnetic, and other adjectives as well. It's an emotion, and we can't waste too much time trying to explain it with a mortal's logic.

So it's just an emotion, but we both know how strong those little bastards can be at times. Instead of fighting with the emotion, just acknowledge it. In a way, this disarms the ticking time bomb. If you start to feel yourself slipping, just say to yourself, "Oh, yeah that's depression creeping in. What up depression? Make yourself at home." Go to your room, or do whatever you like to do when you are sad. Fully embrace the melancholy, the grief, the sorrow, the pain, and just let the tears fall where they may.

This may be a bit intense the first couple times. I cried a lot my first time. I cried, and cried, and cried some more. Probably some old tears that were never fully ringed out from years ago. I just, let go. The key for this to be effective, is that you have to ignore logic, because it is anything but. You can't beat yourself up. You have to learn, to enjoy crying.

Once we stop trying to always apply logic to explain emotion, then we can deal with the two of them as different camps that will never understand one another. But they can help each other, so long as they both stop trying to jokey for position in a race to the Final Answer, which we never end up getting to in the end anyway (but that's a whole other rant).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Keep Pushing

The following is selected excerpt from my correspondence.

I was raised a Protestant. But, in the third grade my Father had a scandalous affair with another married woman in our little piss ass town of 700 people. He left my mother and married this woman, and they lived together in that little town.

Every other Sunday they took us to church, made us sing solos about Snow White Doves and the Sweet Baby Jesus, and put a dollar in the collection plate. A splendid little show for the town's people. They all KNEW what had happened.

It was just this open festering wound that my Father and Step-Mother tried to heal with the bandage of GOD. Finally at some point in my teenage years, They came to their senses and just stopped participating. After years of having two Sunday mornings a month robbed from me, my captors had succumbed to the ultimate weight of the Christian religion. GOD wasn't listening. GOD wasn't healing. After taking that bandage off, they finally let the fresh air of REALITY do it's work. While not painless, it usually brings rapid progress.

I consider myself a medium agnostic. agnostic should never be capitalized, because it has the insight to know it's no better than anything else. Personally, I find most religions to be silly and idealistic. Even the interesting ones, like Buddhism, have gone through a Californication (only the appealing sections are copied and pasted into a coffee table book for Barnes and Noble) of sorts.

Even though I cannot find a religion worth believing in, I will still not call myself an Athiest. No. They are the ones who will end up stuck in that black hole of Absurdity that pulls so strong. It pulls me too, but like Sisyphus I keep pushing that weight. I have to madly laugh with glee as I keep pushing till that rock falls down the other side of a new mountain.

I find myself captivated with fact that for all the genius brains and the shared knowledge of our time, we still can't figure out what happened in that split second right after the Big Bang. Math and Science just lock up like dragsters pushed to their limits. That is beautiful.

Now if those weasel scientist ever come to the last thing, that last piece of the puzzle to connect quantum mechanics and general relativity, what will we do then? Will everything unravel, or will we actually see the end of every future action taken? Can man continue reading if he knows the last chapter? That may be the singularity in the black hole of Absurdity. The point where the only escape from Hell is to take the pills, pull the trigger, slit the vein, make the leap. That is scary.

Enough about my beliefs. Yours sound a little deeper rooted. I can't just tell you not to be ashamed of your hormones, but I can tell you that ignoring them will only cause more conflict between biology and reason.

As far as "Fucking the College Education", it's not completely worthless. You just have to accept that it amounts to a piece of paper that helps get your foot in the door. This country is run by idiots with college degrees in "something or another!" You just have to be ready to fight and claw and push and kill your way to the top. IF, that is really where you want to go? We were all raised to believe we could be anything if we just put our minds to it, but they didn't tell us we would need to sacrifice our hearts and souls as well.

Keep writing. Keep asking. Keep pushing. That's all you can do in order to escape the harsh reality that swallows our friends and family day by day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tighter than you could possibly imagine.


A very large star in distant space.
As the star grows in size over the eons
it becomes harder and harder
for its rays of light to leave
the increasing pull of it's own

The arches of light beams get tighter
and tighter.
Eventually gravity is so strong,
that all light becomes trapped
in around its atmosphere.
Think of it as an aura of light
around the entire sun,
but it couldn't be seen from any outside observer.
For none of it is able to leave the sun's grip.

Then gravity will cross that point
where all light starts to be sucked back
into the star.
The star is now SO heavy
that its own gravity is
pulling all of it's matter in upon

All compacted in and crushed,
Stuffed down by forces beyond
the reversal of any creator.
ALL of it,
crammed down to what scientist call
a singularity.

A singularity.
The mathematical representation
of a black hole.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Put this on the Corporate tab

With the past week being nothing but a pollen barrage on my respiratory system, I didn’t wake up that Saturday morning with any ambitious plans on the top of my list. No. I only found myself waking up and feeling as if I was some 65 year old vagrant who swallowed his Swisher Sweet after passing out on a park bench. After numerous bouts of flailing, twisting, turning and other bed acrobatics, I finally submitted to the fact that I was not going to fall back asleep. Not with this pounding headache, stuffed sinus, and constricted bronchial.
I stumbled from room to room, and pill to pill, until I was sure there was nothing else that could be done but to turn into the “piece of shit” that I now felt like: Just another Saturday, pissed away until about 1pm to 5pm, until my sum-bitch of a conscious gives me a swift kick in the ass with guilt. Guilt that doesn’t get very far when you have no plans laid out in the first place. So, I sat there for a moment in the kitchen waiting for some spark of inspiration to cut through the fog.
Instead, everything was cut by the jingle of my phone. After bearing the burden of an unbalanced trip back to my room, I managed to catch Cindy’s call (Cindy is just a pseudonym to protect innocent bystanders from any collateral damage my actions may bring about).
“You ready for the SoCo Music Experience?”
I’ve had enough experiences in the 30 minutes I’ve been up! I couldn’t help but thinking. “Oh shit Cindy, I forgot! Listen, I’m feeling like crap right now. My allergies are killing me! No, I tried the local honey, it only made me long for graham crackers. Okay. Yeah. Get outta town. Yadda, Yadda! Well I’ll call you a little later and let you know if I feel any better. Later!”
Fast-forward the tape to 5:30-6pm.
Adjust tracking. Recording quality may not be reliable.
After the aid of many chemical compounds pumping through my blood stream, I found myself following Cindy and her friends on a reckless bike ride to the Allient Energy Center. After hastily securing our metal steeds to the chain link fence, we followed the masses towards the entrance. Cindy’s friend Linda found herself pressured by the weight of corporate information gathering, and was held up while they scanned her drivers license to; “Take your First and Last name.” Mitch and I both harangued her about giving up her information to “the Man”, and we both agreed that “the Man” already had enough on the both of us.
There was a flood of Déjà vu on all senses. This feels just like the Grant County Fair, minus the rides of course. Over priced food. Long beer lines. Weirdos comfortable in they own natural mannerisms. Hell, they even went right down to the wood chips on the ground. But once I saw the huge group playing bean bags, the fear crept in.
They’re stealing my culture!
Being 100% German, so far as I know, I often felt as though I have no cultural roots with my German ancestors; other than a taste for hard liquor and beer. But many cultures have the taste for libations. I always wished we gave out steins for Christmas, or maybe my grandmother would pass down her secret recipe for bratwurst. Nope, none of that when I was growing up. However, recently I’ve started to realize that I do have a culture, and while much of it I reviled after leaving my little rural town for the pearly gates of Madison, I’m starting to accept the fact that there is much of it I really like!
I like spinning doughnuts in my pickup. I like sitting around a fire pit, swilling (insert cheap beer brand here), and looking up to a sky with no light pollution. I liked pretending I was Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer, and fishing out of Grandpa’s bottom land by the Grant River, using only worms, hooks, fishing line, and tree branches.
I like shooting. I like shooting a lot. It’s a hard lust to describe to my more liberal peers. There are few words that can describe the feeling of sending a 12 gauge slug ripping through your old “piece of shit” Lexmark printer that was recently replaced by a much better Epson: Shattered plastic and twisted metal fly in all directions, while your brothers hoot and holler behind you. Yes, that cursed printer represents all the petty/stupid little problems in your life that can’t be cured with a pill or a different shitty job. The only easily accessible reference I can give to most is the scene from “Office Space” where they smash the fax machine with a baseball bat in slow motion, while “Die MotherFucker” by the Geto Boys plays in the background. Yeah, that about sums it up.
But Bean Bags! That’s a game I take some pride in knowing the full set of rules for. Shit, someone was doing their homework here. I found it hard to believe the people pulling the strings for SoCo could pull this off in any other city. The Brown-Forman Corporation (headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky and the purveyor of many other overhyped brands such as; Jack Daniel's, Canadian Mist and Early Times Kentucky Whisky) must have sent their weasels into my state long ago. They’ve studied our habits and took many notes.
I ran into many familiar faces, and carried many nonsensical conversations. Most of which were spit into the SquaWkBox. They have yet to be transcribed from the raw audio, so I’m writing this in the warm mist of the “day after recollection”. At this point I can only comment on the experience as a whole.
The Black Keys and The Roots were great, and they were really the only bands I was interested in seeing. I’m not a music critic, and I can’t conjure up any obscure references that would make me feel superior to my four weekly readers. So take my word for it, if you were in my shoes and my skewed frame of mind, the show was Fuckin’ Great!
So I find myself, this quiet Sunday morning pondering how I’m supposed to reflect upon the event.
My piss-ant high school punk rock ethos would instruct me to spit bile all over the fact that some big corporation (whose name had to be looked up on Wikipedia) was orchestrating this well oiled marketing machine. It seemed like some sorry low-rent Woodstock meets the county fair with a bloated marketing budget. Yes, part of me was raised and molded by some great (and some not so great) bands that would have poured gasoline and set the fucker ablaze by now.
No, no, you idealistic moron, don’t you realize how much fun you were having? Yes, I had a blast. I sang and danced and my heart was full of joy! If only Nickelback had headlined, it would be so much easier to cut this event down to something the masses could digest. But these cash-cows sent out there weasel henchmen to infiltrate my culture and musical taste. Then, to top it off, they toss the whole event “free of charge”; which means you can buy three or four of their overpriced drinks and still come out feeling like a winner.
Okay, okay, I admit it … they put on a pretty great little carnival, even if it is on a corporate bankroll. AND, because I had such a great time, which stirred up the conflicting thoughts presented before you, and then prompted me to waste the day on this keyboard; will I always think of Southern Comfort when I recall that show? I mean, hell, I can’t change the name. It’s the “SoCo Music Experience”! That’s true, but I guess I don’t feel any urge to run down to Star Liquor and buy a liter at the moment. I have enough Citadel as it is.
Maybe I’ll just make another drink and sit on the back porch. Softly chuckling to myself over what a good time I had for only one $6 beer the night before. Yeah … I only did buy one of their drinks … suckers!

Monday, September 1, 2008

So, This is the End of Summer?

Ah Labor Day, a fine day indeed. Summer is coming to a close and soon we’ll have to hunker down as Old Bastard Winter comes slinking in behind the colorful foliage of Fall. I sit here on the back porch, Tootsie my fantastically obese cat screaming in my ear from the window screen. Looking back at the summer of 2008, it seems rather atypical to the summers before it. I missed every “Concert on the Square”. Not once did I venture out with that giant Jolly Roger and a gaggle of cohorts to claim our own stake of grass for heavy drinking and a gluttonous feast from a recent pillaging of Trader Joe’s.

Jesus! Two hornets, in what must have been some sort of domestic dispute, just feel from the sky and landed like a stone on the keyboard. This is supposed to be a day of rest and relaxation. I didn’t come out here on the back porch to me menaced my Mother Nature! I waved my hand in one fell swoop and brushed them aside. I was always taught as a child to avoid panic when provoked by any javelin wielding insect. This must have explained how once as a very small child playing in the sand-box, I left my Dum-Dum sucker outside by the box’s edge. Growing up “technically” lower-class, I was also taught, “Waste not. Want not.” So, I ventured out to recover my sugary treat on a stick. None of this is visibly retrievable in the brain, even for how traumatic it sounds. Upon returning to my sucker, I was confronted by a swarm of honey bees that were swooping down like tiny turkey vultures after my sticky sucker. Like I said earlier, I have no recollection of this event, but as my mother would tell it; I came into the house, minus the Dum-Dum, balling my eyes out. She said she counted 14 stingers in my neck. A guaranteed death sentence to any poor bastard with a severe allergy!

I came out here to read, drink and write a little. I look up to find a hole in the awning of the roof. That must be the gates to the hive? Maybe I should grab the can of spray Shellac. Stand real tall on the folding chair and blast the buggers with a long dousing of sealant, forever entombing them in a sticky translucent barrier. That way they can watch me write, and only pray other colonies don’t cross me in the future. This manic notion quickly passed as I considered the fact that the whole gang may come tearing out before the sealant has the two minutes it needs to fully set. Besides, Shellac isn’t cheap, and I need to be out in the sun today. I feel like I’m lacking in vitamin D.

What was I pondering? Yes! This summer has been different. I also have not once made it to Devils Lake. A staple of the last three summers. I now feel that I can’t bother trying to go in the next four weeks. That would just come off as some hastily arranged last ditch effort to feel normal again. Who am I kidding? Normal is purely subjective. For the last two months my body has been heavily medicated with numerous chemicals. Some prescribed and others not; all a part of this bloody odyssey whose end still seems out of sight.

As soon as my financial stability was put into jeopardy, I realized something was a foul, or maybe had been for longer than I would like to admit. I’ve chained myself to the modern American ethos of debt and years of repayment. I can’t just run off to Guatemala, I’ve only had two years of high school Spanish! No. It is time to face the music. This song has been playing on and off in the elevator of your life for too long to ignore. Now I have to start listening.

I could go into mass details and over embellished explanations, but the sun is creeping around the house at and increasing rate. A summer spent hunkered down inside one’s own mind guarantees a serious burn, come the time you finally step out into the sun. So, to make a long story enjoyable to the masses; I admitted myself into psychotherapy in an effort to avoid an Amy Winehouse fiasco that the national tabloids will want no part of. Lots of talking, tissues and pills have pushed me to where I am today.

I know that I’ve come a long way in a rather short amount of time, but there still seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe there isn’t… maybe I’m just getting comfortable with the dark. That sounds kind of ominous. I’ve hated emo kids for as long as I can remember, and maybe that’s only because I was afraid to acknowledge my own negative emotions. However, I still feel that romanticizing depression is not a cure in and of itself. No, a path like that will find you with a shitty haircut that cost too much, and will be laughed at by your children someday.

I’m not sure why I’m compelled to share this with others. Maybe I feel an obligation to all those who wonder what happened to me. An active social life has pretty much been a Band-Aid on an oozing sore. I’m not casting it off as some charade that I’ve pulled over everyone for the last five years. I still dance. I still dance a lot. There is just some heavy work that needs to be done, and no Pirate Potluck, or dance party will make effective progress.

If I plan on keeping “Dance Machine” as a valid pseudonym, I’m going to have to make public appearances now and then. Be patient friends. I have not forgotten about you, and please try not to forget about me. I will come around in my own time.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Steppin in the School of Hard Knocks: part 1

By about the third pedestrian who walked past, the urge to flee hit me like a whiff of gasoline to the sinus cavity. I had been riding on this God-damn Crazy Train for too long, and its twisted unethical appeal was starting to wear thin. Maybe it was the two or three heavy misdemeanors, or the serious felony charge that started to hang around my neck like a bunch of putrid albatrosses. This gig was starting to rot alright. Rot right to the bone.

I smiled and said hello to the man in the Calvin Klein overcoat walking his pampered shih tzu. Anxiously rocking on my heels, I try looking as white as possible, as my darker compatriot rattled the fence behind me. It’s times like this that one must use racial stereotypes to their advantage. “Do you know where the closest Starbucks is?” Or , “Vote Obama!” They know that model citizen’s name in this city. But if I want to cast my own soiled vote for the man, I better figure out something quick!

Fortuna alone couldn’t have carried you this far. Quit winners they say in Vegas. But those words also carry their own weight in an Eight-ball city alley like this. How did I end up in this game? What will be my honest patriotic story for the authorities?

What started as a half-assed back up for my foiled plans of driving to Detroit, and shooting the graveyards of the dying automobile giants, eventually brought me to a dirty South Chicago alleyway. I was drowning in an XL hoodie that belonged to my former roommate. A fine way to blend in with the locals, I thought, also plenty of room to hide my expensive camera. I was minding my business and shooting pictures and anything dirty and detestable to those who have enough money to “pretend” the world is a clean and pretty place.

Out of the corner of my eye, the brain registered a human figure beside the delivery truck that was parked to my right. I made an awkward double take and noticed two vagrants sheepishly waving a signal of truce, a sign that they meant me no harm and they respected how fragile my social confidence was in their neighborhood. I waved an arm back to show them I was not afraid, and walked over to the truck. They were propped up against the building wall, sitting with their legs underneath the trailer of the truck. “We’z just takin’ a break from tha wind”, said the woman.

“Well I’m just taking some pictures back here.” They seemed to ease up and sense that I had no authority in this land. I thought about playing the “surveyor” role to justify my presence. That might provoke them, I thought. I have no connection with the city, or any third party private contractors. Yes, play it legit and curious. This could go somewhere.

I took a seat next to them, on a piece of cardboard that was probably dirtier then the concrete below it. “You’s have any batt’ries ta spare for a radio?” I told them that my camera battery would not be compatible with their 1976 General Electric hand radio. Even though I couldn’t solve their radio problem, they took an interest in me.

“How cums you didin run off?”

I explained that I was trying to capture some photographs of the side of the city no one wanted to look at. “This is where it’s at, this is something real that can’t be replicated into a franchise!” They must have been thinking of a different definition of “real”. Another angle then; people forget about this part of the city, and they should see what it’s like on the other side of the tracks. This connected.

We introduced ourselves. Derek was in his late thirties, but the street made him look about ten years older. He reminded me of a young Bernie Mac, if I would have known a young Bernie Mac. I noticed he was missing his index finger on the left hand. “What happened there?”

“I gots this from whoppin’ a niggas ass!” he shot back. “I was in a fight and this nigga pulled out his Boy Scout knife. Stuck me in the hand. Aftah about two weeks of digging in the trash to eat, she had to come off!” Gangrene. Infection cuts off the blood flow to the affected appendage. Wet Gangrene sets in, causing the finger to be saturated with stagnant blood which promotes the rapid growth of bacteria. After a two hour wait sitting at an inner city emergency room, the verdict for immediate removal will be served. Yes, mankind has come a long way. His right wrist was a bit crooked as well. The results of a three story fall while running from the police. I didn’t ask for the details.

Jasmine, at least I think it was Jasmine. She reminded me of a Voodoo temptress whose game was over 15 years ago, and now resigned herself to the hard times that the spirits of misfortune cast upon her (I have no factual grounds for spirits of misfortune being part of the Voodoo belief, but I know I’ve met one or two in my life). Speaking in a twisted vernacular that I could barley decipher, she was impossible to quote. So for a fluid story, I have named her Jasmine. Derek and she had been married for almost ten years, but the exact date eluded them.

A silo of King Cobra was passed in my direction. “Ah, is this like O.E.?” as I took a swig from her can.

“Shit, this boy no where it at!” she exclaimed as the moorings of some commonality took hold. The comfort level increased a notch.

I feigned out some story of mild destitution. This was not to pretend I could relate to them. I could never fully relate to them. This is something almost every “average” white adult needs to understand. The idealistic open minded liberal will have no clue what day to day city vagrancy is like, no matter how many seasons of The Wire they’ve watched. This disclaimer is mentioned only for the purpose of clueing in the reader that I am not actually that naïve. I will however play that card to any officer of the peace who requests to explain myself, while I wait to be processed by holding. No, this story of a poor college student was spit out for self preservation. “I have little to offer”. “Robbing me is not worth your time.” This is the subtle message I was trying to convey. Did they understand? Maybe the years of street life was causing desert-like hallucinations, where I appeared to them like a Thanksgiving turkey, covered in $100 bills. I wasn’t picking up any hostile vibrations.

My story was of no consequence. Just some quick points that I was couch surfing with a friend in Palatine. I was a photography student who wasn’t sure if he could afford next semester. I had been living off Ramen Noodles for three weeks and I was worried about my cholesterol. A story far from the truth, but close enough to not reek of exaggeration. These two were not stupid. No. That is another thing that most white people need to get through their heads. Street hustlers may not have much of an educational record that can be accounted for by diplomas or certificates, but a smooth Mack can “manipulate and con” ten bucks out of your hand faster than any 14 year old daughter who is going to the mall with Julie’s Mom! No, the mall is far from here, and the option to get lost in the innocence of a Claire’s is not available at this time. I only learned this for myself the hard way. After a couple instances as a wide eyed high school punk, loosing somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 over multiple instances, I quickly gave credit where credit is due. These were not your Madison bums who can be cast off with a wave or a cold shoulder, these were Chicago hustlers. Hustlers who work for their money and so have my fair amount of respect. I still reserve my right to every damn dollar that I worked for though. No dog and pony show alone would pull a “charitable contribution” out of my hand.

Jasmine asked me a question. I think so anyways. She wanted to know if I smoked something. I wasn’t familiar with the terminology, but she reverted to the term “weed”, to compensate for my ignorance. “Ah, yeah on occasion, but I’ll just stick to beer today”. I need to keep all my wits about me. I could sense by our chemistry that this was only the beginning of a much longer engagement. I may not be sneaking around empty factories in Flint, MI, but I might be on the trail of something now. Yes the smell of adventure was strong in the air, among other odors, and I could only see one course of action. I will try to convince Derek and Jasmine to be my ambassadors to the mean streets of South Chicago.

After inquiring about my mode of transportation, I was driving the Tacoma, Derek politely asked for some assistance in acquiring some “wire” that was “just given to him” by a contractor up north in the downtown high-rise area. “Listen, he’s just giving it me. Serious, just given it to me, I just don’t have a vehicle to bring it back down here. I gotta guy who will give me $20-30 for it. I can give you a part of that for your troubles.”

I may be from a small, all white town of 700 people, but I’m not stupid either. He was talking about “scrapping”, but I showed no objection to the reality of his request, and instead well, played stupid. I agreed to help them and their eyes lit up. They promised that they would show me the bridge, which they lived under, and that I could get all kinds of great photographs that would make me “famous”. The chance of great photographs was no doubt a given. Getting famous for them, well that may only happen when old age finally pushes my ambition into publishing mode. A long and painful experience that I like to believe impedes a many young visionary like myself, who get through the day on self deprecation and cheap beer.

A note for the reader about “scrapping”: My first experience with the term “scrapping” was during St. Patrick’s Day, 2006. I was slinking around the downtown area of Chicago like shifty weasel trying to enter the hen house. I was looking to enter my own hen house of sorts, an 18 story sky scraper that was still under construction. “What a great view of the city at night”, I thought. Soon I found myself over the fence and tiptoeing around the first floor, looking for the stairwell. Shortly after realizing that the stairwell was locked up against riffraff like my sorts, a figure moved in the shadows to my left. A brief moment of panic held me stiff while I went over my options. Bolt for the fence that took at least 45 seconds to scale, or stand strong and approach the man with the white flag of peace.

I had no white to show, I was dressed in a conspicuous black hoodie and black combat pants. I raised an open hand instead. After approaching him as just another curious photographer looking to get a great shot of the city, he eased up. “I thought you were a scrapper”, he said with a sigh of relief. He informed me that a scrapper was usually some bum who tries to steal tools and supplies from construction site in order to pawn them off for food or crack money. “Usually crack” he assured. The guy was humble and held no grudge against my trespasses. He even offered to unlock that gate for my exit, and then instructed me on how to drive to the abandoned Projects. “You ought to get some great shots over there!” I thanked him for all his help and left promptly with the lucky hand I was dealt.

But back to my original story: Yes, I understood quite well the gravity of the situation I was stepping into, but that was why I was stepping in the first place. It’s only through irrational decision making and audacious behavior that can spawn the fruit for a story such as this. I’m about to ride one mean bull of unpredictability, but if I can make it just those 8 symbolic seconds, I may come out of this thing with only minor lacerations, but the heart of a lion. So I stepped.

First things first, we needed more beer. I informed them that I had a little bit of cash, and could go for a cold brew myself. The King Cobra was about as warm as any desert snake sitting in the sun. We walked out from the alley and rounded the block to my truck. In the excitement at their turn of events, Jasmine asked if I believed in God. I told her that I was agnostic, but I could see that it wasn’t registering. I tried to tell her that I wasn’t sure what to believe, but that I was open to the idea that maybe there is something out there. She proclaimed something to the effect that I was a blessing sent from God for them that day.

They still seemed a bit baffled that I was so approachable and hadn’t run from them as if they were rabid raccoons (I only now realize the racial connotations of that statement, but fuck it, I find it funny without the racial context). I told them that unlike many of white peers I knew that the odds of me being attacked or caught in a hail of gang related cross-fire was still slimmer than getting rear ended by some 19 year old fraternity member who absolutely must send an emergency text message before parking the car. They weren’t too sure about the dangers of texting and driving, but they assured me that with “a brotha by my side” that no one was going to fuck with my Kool-Aid (now if you think that has racial connotation, just go back to watching “The View).

We saddled up in the Tacoma, Derek riding shotgun and Jasmine crammed back into the extended cab. The closest ghetto liquor store was our first destination. Parking in front, I noticed that there were about eight to ten guys hanging outside. As big as my hood was, I stuck out like a white dove in a park full of some hard pigeons. Derek asked me twice if I locked everything up. I assured him it was.

Inside I gave them a $20 limit. A six pack of Budweiser, a pouch of cheap tobacco, rolling papers, some assorted snack sized bags of chips and a half pint of Vodka were brought up to the counter. The clerk looked at me with what appeared to be a sense of disgusted pity. Did he know something I didn’t? Was he familiar with Derek and Jasmine? Was there writing on the wall that I couldn’t read? I had read plenty already. This is stupid. You are going to be robbed. They will leave you naked, if not dead, and then blow out your transmission as they take a crash course in driving a manual pickup. No. I assured myself that he was only reading the same red flags that I have, he just couldn’t grasp the twisted logic I had subscribed to this day. By heeding to these blaring stereotypes that have been reinforced by the evening news, was I not limiting my ability to experience “the other side of the tracks”? True, it’s hard to see past irrational social fears without jumping in the snake pit once or twice. But, don’t forget that snakes come in all colors, and with varying degrees of venom. That “fear” is just Mother Nature reminding you to watch your ass in foreign territory.

As I pocketed the change and we headed out to the truck, an old drifter approached me, stating he had a question for me. Before I could utter a response, Derek lashed out with a rebuke that about knocked me over. “Fuck off old man, he’s with us! DON’T talk to him.” I ignored the man and moved to the driver’s side door. Derek continued to belt him with obscenities. He appeared senile, but that could have been an act, and he moved away.

In the truck Jasmine cracked open two cans and gave one to me. “Juss cuff it.” She explained that by pulling your sweatshirt cuff over the beer, you could easily conceal it. So, a baggy hoodie comes in pretty useful, and I was glad my former roommate was built like an ox. I was now violating the open container law, as well as drinking and driving, but my cuffs were large. Just an everyday risk one takes on the streets, if they even have a car that is.

Jasmine now wanted to get something to smoke. I told her before that I wasn’t going to smoke any weed today, but I wasn’t going to stand in her way of making that decision for herself. $8 was what she needed, and with some spare change I managed to come up with it. How much weed can you get for $8? A joint? That seems kind of pricey, but this is Chicago, Michigan Avenue was only a couple minutes north. I am not familiar with the black market economic system of this town, so I asked no questions. Derek navigated and we found ourselves parked a mere half block from the Projects. Jasmine headed out towards the complex while Derek waited inside with me.

“I love her man… but that bitch is crazy!” Derek pulled back his shirt to expose a scar on his chest. “She stabbed me in the chest. Put me up in the hospital for a week, a damn week. But when I got out, she had me a thousand dollars! She’s a real hustla yo. I take her up to Soldier Field, a million men, she’d come out with a million dollars.” I wondered what services rendered could be bought from Jasmine for one dollar, or if she was just haggling for a buck until some poor stiff from Nebraska shells it out in an effort to get her off his back? I didn’t ask. Derek also explained that she was bi-polar, and that she was not one to be crossed, but he still loved her.

“You smoke weed, what about the other stuff?”

“What, crack?” I asked rather bluntly. I was on the same page. I told him that I’ve used coke, but that it always gave me a wave of paranoia that my teeth were about to explode like superheated rocks.

“No shit!” he replied with a grimace that exposed a number of vacancies in his mouth.

Jasmine finally returned and we headed off north to recover the wire. Or so I thought.

Derek was navigating again. Our course was heading right towards downtown, as expected, until I was ordered to turn east. Why are we getting of the main drag into this neighborhood? We were out of the ghetto, but still far from any Starbucks. After a couple more turns Derek had me turn left into a parking ramp. As we pulled in, I couldn’t help but notice a vacant parking booth and the dimly lit interior.

There were no lights at all for that matter. Every one burnt out, or maybe the power was out. What is all this garbage on the floor? Why are there no other cars parked here? Is this where the wire is? Please Jesus, tell me this is where the wire is! The answer to all of these quickly manifested. Craig, here is where they take your everyday amenities, and leave you for dead!

I tried keeping my composure while the dread crept up behind me like a black widow. Any false move could provoke disaster. “What are we doing here, getting the wire?” I asked as confidently as possible.

“We just takin care of business”

You put your foot in the butter this time, Craig! You wanted action and adventure, well ya got it. Get ready to play the role of “innocent bystander” in a cruel plot that has nothing to do with your pointless life. You’ll be lucky if you even get mentioned in the credits, much less the evening news. The best you can hope for is some page 4 article of the Local section explaining that you were found visibly distressed and lacking sufficient clothing for a windy day like today.

Fight of flight was on stand-by. If you can get away without so much as being castrated by a dirty “Boy Scout knife”, you better start believing in a higher power. I had no blunt object within reach. Does my insurance policy cover “car-jacking”? Yes, prepare to flee at the scent of any “real” danger. This was not a potential misunderstanding with some drunk at the end of the bar. This was two complete strangers in your truck who could jab you at any moment with a rusty cork-screw.

Derek told me to back up to the light. The only light was about a one foot gap in the concrete that exposed to the outside ground level. My lights were to be shut off. This was it alright, the site where the body would be found. Straight off the set of “C.S.I. Fucking Wherever”! Jasmine leaned forward between the seats with an open hand, into which she poured about five rocks.

Thank the good Lord himself, whoever that may be! You don’t want to kill me. You only want to smoke crack cocaine inside my vehicle, hidden in the confines of this ominous parking ramp. Go right ahead! I’d join ya myself if I didn’t have to work in the morning.

Quickly after my sudden relief, I came to face the reality of what I was witnessing. Crack cocaine was being lit up inside my truck. How would the D.A.R.E. program dramatize the outcome of this one? I remember the first time I saw cocaine, it struck me a with the biting notion that there were many things out in the world that don’t reside in just some primetime crime drama. But this was CRACK! This is not some indie-kid nose candy I was witnessing, this substance that apparently ruined the lives of even those who looked at it. A plague that pushed the white man out to the suburbs, and forced him to start driving big menacing SUVs, all in an effort to hold onto the American Dream that seemed to be rotting from a terminal infection of racial segregation and a war-machine that seemed to be grinding up poor young men of any color. Crack was one of the sharpest teeth biting away at the strong American prosperity and Christian morals that we thought everyone had in the 50’s.

I took comfort though in the knowledge that U.S. Sentencing Commission had recently pushed for the easing of crack cocaine penalties. They later on voted to retroactively apply this to existing inmates being held on crack cocaine charges. It only takes five grams of crack to snag the same minimum mandatory sentence as 500 grams of powder cocaine, effectively making the sentence 100 times more severe. Because most crack offenders are black, and most powder cocaine offenders are white or Latino, civil rights leaders and many judges have proclaimed the disparity is discriminatory. New evidence also proved crack was about on the same level as powder cocaine, as far as health risks are concerned. This made me feel a lot better.

Opponents claim; "Retroactive application of these new lower guidelines will pose significant public safety risks. Many of these offenders are among the most serious and violent offenders in the federal system and their early release . . . would produce tragic, but predictable results." Besides, many prison guards might get laid off … until they can overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and turn sodomy into a national felony. I grew up with Nancy Reagan explaining the horror that vicious narcotics can wreck upon one’s life. “Just Say No!” Just say NO to this conservative rhetoric. It’s misinformed information like this that forces people to lock their doors at 6pm as they page through the latest issue of Reader’s Digest. Full speed ahead I say. Let’s ride this train all the way to the end of the line.

As soon as Jasmine finished smoking, she locked eyes with me as I munched on some pork rinds. A torrent of incoherent babble started to come out of her mouth. I managed to make out that she accused me of not believing in God, and that the all Seeing Eye is watching me. Watching everything I do. Being how I have up till this point never had a crack head acquaintance, or even watched someone smoke the shit; I wasn’t sure what kind of behavior to prepare myself for. Her eyes seemed to stare not through me, but into me. She was still spitting up some kind of strange tongue that for the most part sounded like an ancient curse that might cause me to lose my first born, or maybe just cause me to regularly piss blood every full moon.

I noticed that Derek was watching her intently. We both looked at each other and he broke the silence with a “told ya that bitch was crazy!” After some verbal venom between the two and a few slaps for good measure, Derek was finally able to get the pipe from Jasmine. In reaching for the pipe, Derek let out a cry. “Shit!” He dropped one of his rocks. I looked over my shoulder and saw what appeared to be a piece of road salt in the random garbage of my backseat.

“I got it!” I came up with the little white nugget in my fingers.

“God damn, would you look at Craig.” Derek exclaimed with a gratified smile. Not only had I bought them crack cocaine, and provided a safe harbor for them to smoke it, but I also made sure none went to waste. My mother tried to raise me right.

To be continued...