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.