413. Whitetitlement Disorder, Z63.55

 

For years I didn’t even know I had this disorder. It’s a silent form of corrosion that grows in your gut darkly, similar to prostate cancer. Its scientific name is amygdalar sclerosis, which means “hardening of the amygdala”.  Sure, with an enlarged prostate you have to pee more often, but that’s a function of age, right?  And age alone is not a disorder. But amygdalar sclerosis is tricky, sneaky, internal subterfuge.Other white men may have it and not know so if they are surrounded by other white men who drink coffee or beer, or if they don’t spend time among the diverse people types who inhabit this changing country of ours. The symptoms may include but are not limited to the following:

  • intolerance of change that does not directly benefit them
  • a cloying fear of minorities as a group but not necessarily as individuals
  • disturbing nightmares wherein younger minority males hijack the white man’s car
  • self aggrandizement that seems justified by conveniently arranged facts or myths
  • feelings of superiority wrapped in flags of state or religion or economic theory
  • excessive fear of becoming a minority
  • an “us vs. them” mentality, black or white, all or nothing thinking frameworks
  • a longing for an imaginary idyllic past where law and order always worked while June Cleaver did not.

 

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411. It’s over… right?

 

The oligarchic Olympiad of the most un-presidential presidential election ever conducted on this planet is now over, isn’t it?  Please, God. Make it stop!  Two years and at least five billion dollars have produced…. what?  The Despicable with fewer votes loses. The Despicable with the larger number of votes gets to pull taffy with congress and the media for a while, until a hearing, special prosecutor, impeachment, or some other pair of concrete boots get shackled in place. But no, that does not even add up. The Despicable with the most popular votes lost, thanks to the electoral college system.  It’s hard to say which ruthless political hyena is the bigger loser. Oh yeah, but the biggest loser is our country, unfiltered and driven by idish fears where neither issues nor facts mattered in the end. Only the twin towers of fear and hate stood. Just take the gloves off and get violent. Take the mufflers off and get hostile. Turn the conscience off and spit all over the Other. Let there be no talk of reconciliation. No. No matter who won, it is a matter of Reload not Respect or Rapprochement. Fact deniers become verdict deniers and then history deniers. If you start with a pair of liars, you end with a frothing ocean of lies, breaking on our shores in wave after sickening wave of verbal garbage.

“But he lies more.”

“But her lies are worser.”

“No, he’s the worserest.”

“I know what you are, but what am I?”

And the wounded nation groans for the next generation.

I don’t ever recall the pure hatred of the other side as opposed to the firm declaration of difference in directions being outlined. My first election pitted Jimmy Carter against the un-elected, suddenly promoted in scandal, Gerald Ford. Good trivia question there:  which U.S. president was never elected president?  Oh, political science majors are drooling while googling. John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, and Chester Arthur are the others who moved from vice to full president after calamity. Death opened the door for these guys, whereas Watergate opened the door for poor old clumsy Gerry Ford, who was not even elected Vice President, to stumble through. Spiro Agnew was elected twice. Remember him? However, these stories pale by comparison to the political pornography we have been subjected to for the past two years. Death would have been more noble for the office of the President than drowning in this moral sinkhole of 2016.

The media have functioned as porn film makers. They are just giving the people what they want, so they say, while raking in record ratings and earnings. Pollsters, pundits, professional blatherers have all gotten on the porn wagon. It is its own parasitic industry, ticks feeding on the blood of a bleeding nation. Fear and hate keep audiences glued to their favorite news outlets, drinking their favorite flavor of hallucinogenic Kool Aid. The political porn stars, Don and Hill, are hideous caricatures of character, so flawed on so many levels.

And we are the insatiable audience for this reality television, twitter feed, Facebook war on civility. Peephole creepers. Is it over yet?  No. The new stink is just beginning.  That skunk odor will help sell air fresheners and cigars, and trips to mythical places that have never existed. The campaign culture bar was lowered below ground level so that future political limbo dancers will have to knee walk through Hell, heads bent backwards, sucking the dirt from the soles of the same old special interests, shamelessly squirming to dodge custom made land mines. Hey, it’s what ya gotta do.

“The name of the new boss is the same as the old boss.”  Oh, that won’t do. Let’s go full credit to the Who…

THE WHO     “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the songI’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Sure, it will be different. Sure. The triumph of fear and hate sandblasted the electorate’s moral compasses, leaving nuclear ghosts where soulful people used to reside. Ever seen a nuclear ghost?  They are the shadows of folks whose bodies were annihilated by atomic bombs in Japan.
Onward, patriots. It had to be done, this scorched earth political assault. Once we stopped seeing the Others as  human beings and demonized them, the bombs had to drop, right?
But it’s over now, right? Wrong.
Revisit Dover Beach sometime, it ends this way…
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

 

406. Funhogs

Image result for couple dancing under the moon pictures free

[Disclaimer:  the following did not happen outside my twisted mind. No animals were killed in the filming of this blog entry. By reading further you agree not to file a lawsuit against the author. Furthermore, you agree and assent that reality is a matter of personal perspective and thus cannot be proscribed or prescribed by one party to another.]

She said meaningful intimate things to me, as we walked to our car after a tango lesson at the hillside winery, beneath a full moon.

I had to agree and ignore all the prepositional phrases that would usually constitute a run on sentence, but after decades of teaching and marriage, who cares? Run on like a broken spigot of chianti, I say. To life, to life, la chaim. Run on like a grand symphony or a chocolate fountain.

“What’s not to like? I have a beautiful wife who wants to see me most nights. We’re healthy. Our kids turned out well. We have two awesome grandkids. Many friends. Abundant blessings all around, I’d say.”

“Yes. Knowing how uncertain life is makes it all the more poignant.”

“Are you poignant at me?”

“Yes I am, and your deadly puns.”

“The best puns like scorpions kill, honey…. You know that guy in Lowe’s who told you how beautiful you are on Saturday?”

“Of course. That was different, like weird different. Did it make you jealous?”

“No. I just agree with him. You stagger me worse than a bad pun.”

“You mean like when we are dancing and I try to lead?”

“Sure, there’s that torn rotator cuff, but what a lucky guy I am to be your partner in dance and in life. Not to mention that I’m covered under your Major Medical Blue Cross insurance.”

“I feel the same way.”

“That deserves a kiss as punctuation.”

Schmackk!! Nibble. Cuddle. “Stop! Why must men always grope?”

“I’m not groping; I’m grasping. Besides, one of my favorite heart memories is not grasping at anything, it is watching you dry your hair with the hairdryer while playing fetch with Johnnie and his tennis ball. That’s truly a beautiful image for me.”

“Why on earth do you say that?”

“Well, for the longest time when I’d run the hair dryer, he’d come to me with the tennis ball in his mouth, all excited, you know. He’d drop it and expect me to kick it like you did. But my hair is so not there that I’d be done before he got started.”Image result for bald man with hair dryer pictures

“Really? He’s so smart.”

“Yeah, it took me a while to figure out that you had trained him and the hair dryer was his cue to fun.”

Image result for older couple sitting together at night pictures“What is your cue to come around?”

“Well, let’s see. After you blow the breaker with your hair dryer on maximum, I come to see if it’s working. And to see your beaming face.”

” Not funny that first part. Still, this is the fun part of life. And we are Funhogs.”

“Agreed. It all seems simpler now. You know, the mortgage is paid. Our retirement is fixed. No worries there.”

“It’s more than that, though. We’re over the half way point in our lives now, and the days are richer, I think. Here we are on a Wednesday night, for Goodness sake, dancing and having a glass of wine while the world twinkles off in the distance.”

“Yes. I’d love to freeze this moment, but I’ve said that many times in the past, you know, and here we are thinking this is the most delicious moment of our lives. So maybe we shouldn’t freeze this one; just enjoy it while it’s fresh on our tongues.”

Image result for blueberry on a woman's lips pictures free

“Sign me up for that. Maybe we could share a blueberry. Maybe you could peel me a grape.”

………….. After a make over in the living room………

Image result for pretty living room pictures

“I know we aren’t really smarter these days, but we’re wiser, I think. Did you ever think our house could be this pretty?”

“Yes, I did. I never believed it would cost this much, but that’s something else. In the end we don’t remember what something cost; we remember what it’s worth. Yup, yup. That’s what I thahnk, Jenn nay. Worth every Penn nay. That’s what Momma always sayed.”

“So, Mr.Forrest Gump Clairvoyant, how did you know it would end up so lovely?”

Birth of Venus by Botticelli“Simple: you are beautiful, and where you tread needs to show that. Remember Venus on the Half Shell by Botticelli? Wherever she stepped, in mythology anyway, spring broke out beneath her feet. So, it’s like that, my goddess. Beauty erupts at your toenails’ approach.”

” It’s The Birth of Venus. She’s not an oyster, you know. You are so full of Irish baloney.”

“True, and it’s a fine buttery blend of blushing beasts, so it is. Made from ground squirrels, ground hogs, ground possums, and a young pheasant for texture.”

“What am I going to do with you?”

“Hug me, squeeze me, tease me… just for a start.”

“You didn’t get enough attention when you were a kid, did you?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. As Shakespeare said, “Some men are born great; some achieve greatness; and others have greatness thrust upon them.”

“You must be a ‘thrust upon guy’ cuz you sure weren’t born great and you haven’t achieved much.”

“True. Indisputably true. The thimple truth isth thometimes I’m just thilly with these thingsth. Thay! Isth that a new hairsthyle you’re sthportin?”Image result for daffy duck images

“So you devolve into Daffy Duck when things get therious? Theriously?”

“Yesth. It’sth a coping sthrategy I useth in sthticky thituationsth.”

“Sthtop or I’ll thscream.”

“Okay, enough of that routine. We need one more vignette for this blog post, my Dearie. What is your fondest, not fondlest, memory of me?”

“That’s hard.”

“Because there are so many to choose from?”

“No, that’s not it. Let’s see, um… it’s a repetitive memory of a repetitive experience. When we dance, you know, and you are supposed to lead, and I lean back waiting to be swept off my feet, and then I look in your eyes and realize that behind your blue eyes is an ocean of Play Doh, and then I lead and tell you what to do next, which is why I tore your rotator cuff last spring…”

“Uh hum, that is a run on sentence, Sweets.”

“And you will drink it down like free chianti.”

“As your champion, I will gladly wear the wounds of love’s many battles, my Lady. Mostht thertainly.”

Image result for kneeling knight in front of h is ladyThis never happened. As the three long time readers of this blog can attest, rarely is reality accurately depicted here. It’s mostly verbal Jello that fails to set up due to a lack of integral pectinosity. Do not eat this. Do not step off the top paragraph. Do not print this on a plastic bag and wrap it around your head as it could cause asphyxiation and/or death. Do not take seriously or brain damage may result.

 

 

 

 

 

386. BEWARE: Killer Wanna Bees

Years ago we were supposed to be invaded by swarms of Africanized honey bees, known as Killer Bees. Saturday Night Live did skits on the Killer Bees. These bad mannered bees eventually did find their way into the Southwestern states where they have killed some outdoorsman types, rock climbers and landscapers, a hog here,  a dog there, and have attacked many a baseball player with aromatic hair gel. The swarm will sting a body  over 1,000 times, injecting more venom than a human body can tolerate. Victims swell up and die, unable to breathe.

And how did these stinking thugbees get loose, you ask?  Human intervention and accident. In the 1950’s Biologist Warwick E. Kerr interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa in an attempt to increase honey production in Brazil.(I am not making this up. I am paraphrasing Wikipedia here.) Great idea, right? What could possibly go wrong?  But, you guessed it– these hybrid bees were very defensive and swarmed aggressively. They had to be kept in containment as the research progressed. But in 1957 a visiting beekeeper not named Bill Buckner thought he’d take the lid off the bees’ hives. Twenty six swarms of Tanganyikan bees escaped through the wickets and into the wilds of Brazil. The rest of the tale is history, stupid history of man playing God and screwing up nature’s balance yet again.

Image result for attention addicts picturesI’m not writing about Killer Bees, however. I merely mentioned them to funnel you ala the old bait and switch technique into my topic–>> Wanna Bees. These are not insects but humans who buzz about.  Hungry and strangely defensive? Yes, but not for pollen or nectar. Nosirreee. They seek attention and any supplemental benefits that come from attention. Fame is the ultimate goal for Wanna Bees. This may come from performing or politics (really, what’s the difference?) or writing (doubtful, not enough face time) or the other arts. Sports has its share of wannabees, hot dogs who not only seek but create drama… because that’s where the cameras go, and bored American audiences crane their necks to see what’s gonna happen next. But the largest swarm ever released comes from the Hydra Headed, Medusa like beast known as Social Media, which inadvertently spawned and released the pathological Wanna Bees into the world about 15 years ago. This correlates roughly with the rise of the celebrity, noun, a useless but attractive Wanna Bee, see Kardashian/Jenner. Synonym, weasel-pede. Primarily American usage.

Andy Warhol was prophetic when he declared, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” That was in 1968, Blogabillies.  Since then the world and its pool of potentially famous humans has grown substantially. Basically it’s doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people. If each person gets his/her 15 minutes of fame, you and I are going to have to wait a long, long time till Zylpada Zyabrowski finishes her turn, assuming we go in alphabetical order.  I’m sure a math geek can calculate the number of hours required, and an engineer can rig up a system to broadcast each famous person, and a political delegate hunter can measure by polls how famous a person is for the allotted time… However, this 15 minutes of fame thing is really getting old. All these “famous” people aren’t all that interesting. Nonetheless we continue hoisting another Baby Bieber up the flagpole of popular appeal until everyone salutes. We step back and yawn, “Wow, that dude is famous. Could you pass me the salt?”

About the time the Killer Bees were released, a new way of parenting was being practiced– indulgence. My buddy Clark once told me that indulgence was the worst form of child abuse ever. When I prodded him for his justification, he told me this.

“You know if a kid gets beaten or sexually abused, he/she can eventually get over  it through counseling and medication, right? But the thing with indulgence is this: THE KID DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HE’S BEEN ABUSED. Instead, he’s been sold a script that he is so very precious and entitled to special treatment by everyone, all the time, everywhere. He’s screwed for life cuz he’s totally unprepared for unfiltered reality. It’s so awful.”

I could not disagree. He’s usually brilliant anyway, an anthracite diamond from Cambria County.

For myriad reasons, parents in upwardly mobile segments of America wanted more for themselves… perhaps because they worked themselves silly and were told by voices on television and radio that they deserved more of everything, all the time, everywhere. At the same time the American economy was booming at such a force that the dollar’s buying power increased, causing a unique problem known as deflation. Suddenly in the late 1950’s the dollar magically bought more. Prices dropped. All signs pointed to success, world domination, and the righteousness of the American Way.

Those parents came to adulthood during the Great Depression and World War II. They did not know what surplus meant since the excess of the Roaring Twenties fueled the near total collapse of the stock market and banking system in the U.S. over a generation previously. Here was a new opportunity to get it wrong again. Those parents might have suffered through bleak decades of war and deprivation, but their little ones would not want for anything if they could help it. Free time, sports, entertainment, convenience foods, miracle drugs, and other indulgences exploded as if to confirm that America had found Nirvana. The kids of that era were given more than any previous generation had dreamed of along with a  system that would keep the dream alive. Television became the opiate of the masses, hypnotically calling them onto the treadmills of consumerism, pulling them deep into the vortex of unending debt.

Voila!! There is the recipe for today’s indulged children no matter their age.

Today’s Wanna Bees sting with cyberwords and emojis, thousands in a minute. They Twitterpate their adversaries with 180 cc’s of deadly venom at a time. All for the sake of more honey. They don’t even know they’ve been abused, honey junkies one and all.

380. A Leonard Cohen kind of day

If you get bummed out listening to Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, or Neil Young, or relentless icy rain on the roof for that matter, and think you can’t get any lower, there is always Leonard Cohen, the Canadian opiate poet songwrier. He’s deadly beauty in commotion that flows out of a bottomless, abandoned coal mine throat. Ghosts and steam rise out of echoing shafts leading from his tortured, half-buried, dying heart. He reminds me of steam grates on a New York City winter day that fumigate passersby in mysterious vapor, where homeless folks try to sleep under funky layers of old newspapers fished out of trash cans… and Leonard is the heat source way down below, brewing bitter beer in Hell. I’d recognize his voice anywhere, “Hello again, Leonard. I thought that was you, man. Come on in.”

I used to listen to Leonard back in college, the early 70’s. If you were feeling edgy or sad, making a noose maybe, he could fix that by totally obliterating any residual hope or joy in just one song. He could kick the chair out from under your dead weight and leave you literally hanging. His song “Suzanne” used to slither through my consciousness and bump into dirty laundry piles of longing and melancholy.  I smoked filterless cigarettes then, having little concern about my health or future or anyone else’s. Leonard Cohen’s songs hung in the air like blue tobacco smoke in a sealed coffin room, permeating the clothes and furniture fabric there. They moved me off any easy rock and roll street I might have been dancing across, away from sensitive singer songwriters who offered love and hope and happiness. Instead, raw, slow Leonard lightning would hit my solar plexus and bring me just short of my knees, dry heaving at his truths… dark truths that would conjure tears I had no idea existed in me. Hauntingly sad, brutal beauty stirred in my guts, deep calling out to deep. It must be the foolish, self defeating Irish in me that sags and lingers over the Pieta or a lonely Corot landscape. I remain enthralled and fascinated by tragedy.

All those guys  come from up north, come to think of it. Leonard & Neil–Canada, Dylan–Minnesota, Lou Reed–New York. Hmmm, Joni Mitchell is Canadian also, and she could toss your soul into a deep well in two stanzas, ropeless and hopeless. I know depression rates rise at you move away from the equator, so consider this observation one more proof of the intersection of psychological pathology and geography. North of  42* N equals longitudinal attitudinal dysregulation. Jimmy Buffet comes from the Gulf Coast. And lots of other rockers came out of L.A., Southern California. I think you see the sunshine pattern, right?

Wet, gray, cold, low pressure days simply elapse like trash fires that smolder all day. Not enough oxygen or fuel to thrive. It’s hard to tell what time of day it is. 10 a.m. looks the same as 4 p.m. so your sense of time is skewed further, even though we turned the clocks ahead Sunday morning. My watch and car clock are still an hour behind. I’ll change them when I’m good and ready, okay? Maybe by default in the fall. I love the old cynical observation that even a broken clock is right twice a day. So even the clown who refuses to set his clocks ahead is correct twice a day? No, I guess he just remains behind. He’s not broken just stupid.

What is time anyway other than man’s feeble attempt to measure and then control nature? I’m sure Leonard Cohen has something to say about time. His song “Closing Time”, as a matter of opinion, feels like battery acid on the tongue and a fork in the eye. The video version is shot in black and white because the lyrics and mood are so not colorful. People and clothes and chairs float across the screen as he moans the fallen angel lyrics. Yeah, there is beauty in brokenness, but you need an unbroken background to appreciate the ruins. If all the world looked like Detroit or Syria, photographers would find other subjects for their lenses. These desolate places can strike visceral chords in us because we have seen pristine beauty, ordered and glorious. A little Detroit or Aleppo goes a long way, thank you.clostimevid

This is true of Leonard Cohen as well. Ruins and ghettos, devastation and devolution have no future. Cold, wet late winter days must yield to pure spring bursting forth Life’s force. It must and shall overcome the doom and gloom of desperation. It’s not any more naïve to believe in redemption than it is to believe in eternal damnation. The bitter existentialist says, “This is it. There is no more. Suck on it.” I prefer to wait and see for myself for what lies beyond. I expect one day Chernobyl will be the name of a nice medium sweet red wine and not a nuclear disaster story.

Then again there is Leonard’s “Hallelujah”, written way back in 1984. It winds through the historically religious use of hallelujah while also moving beyond exclusively religious context. This holy word is given common purpose, affirming the Life force beyond (or is it beneath?) King David, more like his adulterous passion. Leonard mingles the profane with the holy as he moves between choruses of Hallelujahs, claiming there are two versions of Hallelujah, a holy and a broken one. In his last verse Leonard seems to give a proclamation: despite or because of all his shortcomings, he will praise the Lord of Song with his broken hallelujah.

Yeah, and as usual he cuts your heart in two– one auricle for you, one for me. One ventricle for you, the other for me. Wine pumps through one side, formaldehyde cures the other. Leonard, you kill me… but please, will you sing this at my funeral?

343. Immigration Quilt

Some folks call me liberal; others call me conservative. My twin brothers-in-law, for instance, call me lots of names while playing chess. I think I’m consliberal or conliberative, a mixture of many threads. Both individual and communal minded. I like free enterprise and capitalism, it’s just that human beings suck and lie, cheat, steal, defraud, plunder, rape, pillage… you get the point. Therefore, we need a government entity to protect the community from the uber wolves who have no conscience. We also need government because we suck at being good citizens. Left to my own devices, I would not drive the speed limit nor get my car inspected nor pay taxes in a timely manner. Nor would you, comrade. I might shoot the neighbor’s barking dog at three in the morning after listening to it all night. Fish and hunt when and where I felt like it. Make my own rules as I went along. Still, we need productive citizens who make money and pay taxes in order to have a government that in turn protects us from foreign and domestic threats. But this is not my point, it’s just intro blather.

Lately the political/news porn lens focus has been on migrants. It’s not a new fear about the foreigners, the different ones. Way back when, it was the Catholic and the Jew who were feared and despised. Then it was the Eastern Europeans and then Asians and then Central Americans… all coming to  destroy our perfect union, which has never been perfect. Somehow these unwashed savage despicables were going to take our jobs, our land, and our women, which never really worked out, and in any event our ancestors took all of that from the Native People just after they hit the shores.

Anyway, talking with Gary after Sunday School this morning, he mentioned having had new citizens to his lovely home over Thanksgiving. “It was neat. Here we were eating Thanksgiving dinner with immigrants.”

“Gary, unless you are Native American, you’re an immigrant too. You just had a head start.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I just don’t know about the immigrants who don’t want to assimilate to our culture, you know, and want to stay in their own closed off enclaves.”

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“You mean like the Amish, the fundamental Mormons, the Shakers, the Hassidic Jews in Brooklyn, the Klan, the Branch Davidians, or drag queens, or gypsies, or…”

“No, I was thinking about these Muslims. They don’t want to assimilate and I can’t see how they can want to be Americans and at the same time work against being an American. You know, try to bend our country into an Islamic state.”

“I hear you. Everyone seems to have an agenda, but what I like about our country is that it’s like this huge quilt that is made of loosely affiliated people groups who somehow find a way to coexist. Farmers from Vietnam, bankers from Canada, doctors from India, pilots from Norway, nurses from Belgium, etc. Like last week in New York City, we drove through China town and Little Italy. Didn’t make it up to  Harlem or Spanish Harlem, but these places are all heavily ethnic yet assimilated. Actually, I’m not sure what a fully assimilated American would look or sound like, George Clooney maybe?”

“But it seems like these Islamists are radical and want to make us like them instead of just joining in, finding a niche for their culture inside the existing one.”

“Yeah, the guns and bombs are hard to ignore. Hmmmm. If one percent of Russian immigrants are evil, and one percent of Africans, and one percent of Mexicans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bolivians, well… I don’t know how you keep that per cent out unless you keep them all out. And that does not seem very American. I’m sure there were unsavory Irish, German, Italian and French immigrants. You and I descended from such stock and we’re pretty despicable. Heck, Georgia was a penal colony, for goodness sakes! Let me Google something on this…

The British used colonial North America as a penal colony through a system of indentured servitude. Merchants would transport the convicts and auctioned them off to (for example) plantation owners upon arrival in the colonies. It is estimated that some 50,000 British convicts were sent to colonial America, representing perhaps one-quarter of all British emigrants during the 18th century. The State of Georgia for example was first founded by James Edward Oglethorpe by using penal prisoners taken largely from debtors’ prison, creating a “Debtor’s Colony”. However, even though this largely failed, the idea that the state began as a penal colony has stayed both in popular history, and local lore. The English also would often ship Irish and Scots to the Americas whenever rebellions took place in Ireland or Scotland, and they would be treated similar to the convicts, except that this also included women and children.

“Can you imagine this today? Importing a group of known criminals, 100% of them known convicts. And what about slavery?  The despicables there were doing the importing. It was all okay then when cheap labor was needed. Today we send good jobs overseas and import sex trafficking victims, but it’s the same old sad story of evil people taking advantage of others.”

“You really think we’re despicable, I mean, you and me. A lot of the stuff I say about you is just joking, you know that, right?”

“Gary, even despicables like us get a swatch of printed poplin in that grand old immigrant quilt I’m talking about. We’ll be in the armpit section, but we’ll still be part of something bigger, better than we are.”

“So you don’t think we need to buy a bunch of guns and ammo and start patrolling the mall with Josh?”

“Actually the mall is going to collapse under the weight of its uselessness coupled with its undesirability and history of bad management. Folks just stopped migrating there when competition showed up.”

“You think some other country will open its arms to these refugees, then?”

“Yes. A land with barren spaces and no ingrained culture to overthrow.”

“In this hemisphere?”

“Sort of…I was thinking of Antarctica. If you squint, it sort of looks like a bunch of Amish guys dancing with Hassidic Jews and some Shiite dudes.”

 “Thanks, man. You have a way of muddling difficult facts in such a way that I just feel better leaving you.”

“You are welcome, my fellow traveler brother.”

 

 

331. Not Fade Away

“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad…”  So sang Cheryl Crow. Oh, but it can be this way; it is true. So many folks I know cling to something that made them happy, but over time it no longer does. They ache and pine for a lost loved one or an unfaithful lover. Bittersweet is the taste and the feeling that courses through them as they ping pong between tender longing with a dry throat or vinegary tears dripping down contorted cheeks. What a strange combination and contradiction when couples dance at wedddings to songs of heartbreak and melancholy, feeling safe, even invulnerable in a satin white coccoon. “That won’t happen to us. We’re special, protected somehow, immune.” And they sway to the slow rhythm of a broken heart song, unaware that they will follow in its hollow footsteps…

Bittersweet memories
That is all I’m taking with me
So, goodbye
Please, don’t cry
We both know I’m not what you, you need
And iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIII will always love you
I will allllllllllllways love you  {goodbye Whitney}

Oh, why do fools fall in love? Because love makes fools of us all.

 [Frankie Lymon and the Teennagers.]

Long ago I heard a therapist say that couples divorce for the same reasons they marry. This seemed contradictory to me, so I inquired further. Say what? “Yes. If a couple marries for looks, when their looks fade, as they inevitably do, then they divorce. If a couple marries for status and money, when those fade, they divorce. If they marry for the fun they shared in activities, when the activities fade, they divorce. And so on, with sex, popularity, health, etc. Even couples who are passionately attached with a sparky connection divorce when inevitably that spark fades.”

“So Doc, what’s the answer to this riddle? I mean, why don’t we all just hang ourselves now?”

“The answer is to marry for reasons that don’t fade or change. Immutable reasons.”

“Like what? ‘Cause everything changes.”

“Actually an adult’s core values are relatively immune to change. An honest adult is likely to be honest all his life, whether he is bald or happens to sport a full head of Elvis hair. A faithful, upright woman will be faithful and upright as well. A compassionate adult will live a compassionate life. A faithful friend is likely to be faithful to the bitter end.”

“So you are talking about abstractions not material world stuff.”

“Yes. Your ripped and toned body is going to soften and weaken if you live long enough. Your incredible hand-eye coordination is likewise doomed to a similar fate, even with Lasik surgery and testosterone treatments.”

 “C’mon, Man. Look at these abs…And great sex falls into this sad basket also?”

“Yeah, stuff wears out– muscles, organs, bones, blood vessels, skin, nerves. All fail one day.”

“You are killing me, man. Have you ever considered un-motivational speaking for a career?”

“Actually I have, but the market isn’t there. I have been called an emotional exterminator. The Undertaker of Conviviality. For a while I was a bouncer at Polish weddings.”

“Uh huh, you can empty a room fast.”

“Well, it depends on the crowd. Some folks lap up what I’m putting out there. But they are a lot more mature than you.”

“You mean older, right?”

“No, I mean wiser. The maturity that comes from successful suffering.”

“Look, I’m not going to stand here and listen to your condescending lecture.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, I was hoping you’d back off if I got all Neanderthal on you.”

“Which only further proves my maturity point.”

“OOOOOkay. I get it. I’m infantile Now tell me something I don’t already know.”

“Life expectancy gets in the way of enduring marriages.”

“Huh?”

“Average life expectancy in the U.S. during the years of 1850-1900 was 40 years. And during those years folks didn’t have movies or television, fast food or central air conditioning. They worked 10 and 12 hours a day just to survive. They were so busy with survival that this drivel we’ve been discussing would have made no sense to them. You following me?”

“Yes Sir! I can follow hard facts easier than prickly paradoxes and slippery conundrums. These folks lived brief, painful lives and died after they procreated but before they grew tired of one another.”

“Something like that.”

“So they could fall in love for silly and superficial reasons but die before they saw the varnish tarnish.”

“Is that some sort of stupid play on words?”

“Yeah, you know, it’s like a rhyme. A little word play to lighten it up, Doc. You know, you are deadly.”

“Well, remember my audience, doltish, and the task I have undertaken.”

“Yup, I’m with you. I still think you suck at motivating people though.”

“Yes, so with the extended life together, American married couples were not prepared for decades of shared life overlapping more and more free time. It was just too much. Drama and bickering and the endless struggle for control developed once the television came to dominate American living rooms. It is clearly illustrated in this unrelated chart. As you can see, new marriages peaked in 2006 and by 2014 over half a person was  missing due to recessionary pressures.”

“Doc, I get the big picture, even though your chart has nothing to do with your subject at hand.”

“I didn’t think you’d notice. ‘Touche for ooya.’ How do you like that word play?”

“Doc, let’s finish with an affirmation. I don’t want to leave this post angry. Okay?  Think of the little Blogglers out there who need a boost. I mean, they have read this far hoping for something resembling intelligent writing. Lie if you have to, but don’t let them go to bed hungry.”

“You are pitiful.”

“I don’t care what you think of me, Mister. Just give my people a crust of intellectual bread.”

“Okay, you’ve warn me down. My final point is that if you choose a partner for ephemeral reasons, you will indeed have an ephemeral mayfly marriage. Modern marriage is a covenant agreement that may last sixty or seventy years in our modern era. It’s longer and harder than ever to make marriage work. So, build on solid ground with proven materials– faith, integrity, truth, transparency. They don’t fade away.”

“I prefer Buddy Holly’s advice… amen.”

“Not Fade Away”

I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
You’re gonna give your love to me
I wanna love you night and day
You know my love a-not fade away
A-well, you know my love a-not fade away
My love a-bigger than a cadillac
I try to show it and you drive a-me back
Your love for me a-got to be real
For you to know just how I feel
A love for real not fade away
I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
You’re gonna give your love to me
A love to last a-more than one day
A love that’s love – not fade away
A well, a-love that’s love – not fade away

 

 

 

 

 

 

322. The Battleship and the Daisy

[Once, a half dialogue dribbled down like this, like a watercolor monologue or a torpedo’s jet stream.]

“It’s like this”, she said. “You are a battle ship, armored and loaded for warfare. No soft spot on your hull. A floating uncrackable Brazil nut. You can muster your energies for sure destruction, mutually assured destruction, to be sure. Your relational invincibility makes you vulnerable, though. Because I can’t get to your steel-plated heart to change your course. 007 couldn’t complete this mission. So, ‘Boom’, our world ends. Dr. No wins.”

“On the other hand, I am a daisy whose soft petals sometimes fall. I am fragile sometimes and need to be held gently. You know, as a girl I counted ‘he loves me; he loves me not’, always frightened of ending on ‘not’. I can’t end on ‘not’. I refuse to grant you ‘not’ status. We are rooted in each other.”

“Still, you just go ‘Boom’ when things don’t go your way. You attack before you are attacked. No warning, maybe one demand for ransomed love, usually not. Only shattered windows and smoke follow your shoreline shellings. I know every hero needs a good villain, but that’s the movies, Mr. Bond. Listen to me:  this is real life!”

“I, huh, I need your protection and comfort, not your aggression, criticism, and condemnation. Circle that battleship around and protect me, please. Open a door, a port hole to your soft soul. I am not your Savior but I know Him. He loves you too, not your armor. Don’t you know that by now? Doesn’t that lonely ache scream out, ‘Abba’?”

“How? I just don’t know how we are going to make it work. All these years we have adjusted course and reformed a bit, amended, edited, throttled back. But we have not transformed to where we have any chance to succeed.”

“And survival is all we have to show for the years together, like some teetering rock in Utah that has survived centuries of erosion. Desperate Desert Dalis, we balance so precariously on toothpicks. A word, a look, a small failure and the whole thing collapses. Erosion will win if we don’t. Ours is a surreal relationship that won’t pass scrupulous scrutiny. Just look. Things are not what they appear to be.”

“If we don’t die first or find a way that is bigger than both of us–The Way of mutual surrender– then we’re just dead dust. I don’t trust you or myself to find that way through without surrendering to God. We suck by our odd, selfish, impatient, shellfish, greedy, lazy, miserable selves. Dessicated crustaceans in an Asian food market.”

“And that’s just what we are– not special or noble or exceptional. That’s all so much false advertising on t.v. Left to our own vices and devices we deserve nothing but trouble on our own. We are bloated ticks on an old sick hound dog. We need God, who is good and seeks us. Who knows why? The answer is not on our side of the equation, where we stack all our good works and all our failures on one side of a scale and God’s grace on the other. His grace will always weigh more, way way more. Our deeds are hollow as pigeon bones.”

“I can’t explain it. I take it on faith. That’s all. We are always a toothpick away from destruction.”

“Which is why we need to stay on our knees, face to the ground. We cannot fall from this humble mound. It’s when we are tall and haughty that we trip over pebbly sin.”

“Are you listening? How can a daisy pry open a battle ship?  Dear God! There must be a vent, some opening you breathe through. And I will pour my petals into that vent until your pistons pause, your gears gum up, and your engines stutter. I will smear my pollen all over your radar screen and uncorrupt your warped messages with powdery triple negatives. I’ll wrap my supple green leaves around your evil sensing antenna. Send an army of devoted honey bees into your cruel captain’s cabin. I’ll float my fragrant allergens into your nostrils, causing fits of blind sneezes. In any way I can, I will disarm you, my pirate love. We are not at war.”

So Isaiah wrote, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

This cold war operation has run out of time and fuel.”

“Can we live in peace and gently garden? ”

“We will plant hectare upon hectare of pure daisies, my love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

306. Burning the Dead

When I was a kid living in the cookie cutter housing tract known as Virginia Hills, summers were hot and humid and forever. As a little kid I have vivid memories of white and yellow honey suckle vines and pink feathery mimosa blossoms beyond my barren back yard. (With four boys in one quarter acre lot, ours was the designated turfless baseball or football field.)  Lying on the ground between damp sheets under the laundry line was an early form of air conditioning.  And digging in the clay with my mother’s treasured sterling silver soup spoons was an early science camp. They turned black and blue magically when you dug into that moist orange Virginia clay. Later on we had skate boards, the home made type– a board screwed onto roller skates. And then two wheeler bikes when we were big boys.

Along the way we also did a lot of walking. The closest stores were roughly one mile away in any direction. Without a lot of other competition we’d sometimes decide to walk up to the Super Giant on Route 1 to buy a pack of gum or a five cent store brand soda. I know it’s inconceivable of a modern kid walking two miles for anything, but we did without a second thought. Many times we began the store pilgrimage penniless but relied on faith that we’d find returnable bottles along the road sides as we slogged across shaded streets. Usually our faith was rewarded by others’ litter.

My partner in lizard catching, bird boxing, turtle hunting, crawfish nabbing, snake grabbing, and any other wild life adventure was Chris Young. He had three brothers also and lived around the corner on The Parkway. Like me he was third in the male birth order, which is not such a bad slot for wanderers to inhabit. Parents don’t miss the third child as readily as the first or the baby. And this opens up unearned opportunities for adventure and risk taking… and crime.

One late summer day Chris and I decided to take the not so short shortcut across Mt. Comfort Cemetery on our way up to the Giant store. I did not like hopping strangers’ fences and cutting through their yards, but Chris reassured me it was all good, which is an incomplete translation of … “until you get caught”.  Anyhow, we experienced no troubles on the way up as we came out of the wooded back yards of a contiguous neighborhood and into the almost golf course feel of the cemetery where no vertical monuments are allowed. My Catholic faith told me to respect the dead and not walk over their graves but around them. Chris never saw the inside of a church and walked in various states of ignorance. We cut across the bone dry grass past the Last Supper Monument toward the fountain of the All Seeing Jesus for a drink of water.

 The deal with that carving was that no matter where you stood, the eyes followed you. It was both freaky and guilt inducing if you had an IQ plus a conscience. I did not suspect then that Chris lacked one or both. However, in the intervening years it has been confirmed. We took a long drink of water that was likely not too pure and walked the last half mile to the store with Jesus staring at our blissfully ignorant backsides. “Oh pride goes before a fall.”

We chilled out in the air conditioned grocery store for as long as we could without attracting too much attention. Chris also liked to shoplift on occasion. My parochial school training (i.e. institutional shame) offset my desire for immediate impulse gratification. On the way past the cigarette vending machine Chris picked up two packets of matches that customers had left behind. It seemed pretty innocent.

On our return trip across the cemetery we stopped for a second drink from the fountain of the All Seeing Jesus and then trekked slowly toward the white oak trees that curved along the perimeter of the graveyard. Chris took out a pack of matches and flicked a lit one into the dry white grass. It immediately caught fire and began to spread. He swooped his Chuck Taylor sneakers across the flames and immediately the fire was over, leaving only a small black stain in the acres of gnarly white carpet.

“That was cool. Let’s see how big we can make the fire.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Image result for fire in a field pictures

But no sooner were my words out of my mouth than the next match was igniting more dead grass at our feet. The flames spread exponentially it seemed. Every second the fire was double. This time I ran around the edge and smothered the leading edge with my Converse sneakers while Chris stomped out his side.

“That was close, man. Don’t do it again.”

“Oh come on, one more time and then we’ll get out of here.”

And again he carelessly tossed another lit match onto the pale thatch that had been green grass months ago. This time the flames must have had a little breeze aiding them. No matter how we ran and stomped, the ring of fire was faster than our tap dancing feet. Chris began to yell something incomprehensible and then he bolted for the tree line, leaving me alone with the spreading fire among the deceased safely six feet under the flames. Out of nowhere I saw a man in a Jeep come flying at the fire circle. He drove around the perimeter in a heartbeat and then jumped out with a fire extinguisher to finish off the inside flames. Amazingly the fire was out in a minute.

I was sooty, scared and shaking as the man yelled at me. I immediately ratted out Chris as I awaited a lifetime in prison for arson. For some reason the guy let me go, perhaps because I was peeing my pants with fear. I don’t know if Chris ever faced the music for his pyromania. I know that I learned un-incinerated boredom is not so bad after all.

Somehow I knew Jesus had seen it all even though He was facing the other way.

158. Totalitarian penguins

With a title like that what would anyone expect?  I have no idea either, I just like the odd juxtaposition. I also like the word juxtaposition. It makes the user of it seem smart, whether he is or not. Juxta means beside. I’m going to try “rapper styling” this line with my wife, “I just wanna get juxta you, Baby .” I wonder how far I’ll be slapped. Across the room? Across the street? Into next week?  But penguins? They are universally loved and esteemed. Why, there was a lovely movie made about them years back, The March of the Penguins. I saw it and oohed and awwwed at those big birds and how they huddle together sacrificially to survive in the brutal Antarctic climate. They are just wholesome and good and clean and well dressed in their perma-tuxes. Who does not love penguins? Let’s see, their predators. South Polar bears and kangaroos, separated by continental drift in the Second Ice Age, but in their collective unconscious kangaroos and the beige South Pole bears slaver over mythical penguin jerky strips that were once regular menu items in Old Australia. Please fact check me on these assertions. I could be wrong. I might be confusing history with an episode of the cooking show Chopped.

Image result for rebel emperor penguin pictures

But just for a moment, imagine if a single (or married) penguin began to talk or squawk smack about their awful conditions and how the seals and sharks had forced them to live on ice and krill. And this Alpha penguin developed great oratory skill over time, always focusing on the pain at hand… or at wing, or flapper, you know what I mean. If this Emperor of Emperor penguins stood on a little squinty-eyed sycophant (another smart sounding word) and railed against the cultural oppression and poor financial situation the flock faced, well, stuff could happen. Then if he, let’s call him Flappin, focused the hate on walruses, how they had so much blubber and were responsible for global warming and overfishing, you see where this would naturally go. Since penguins are the bird equivalent of sheep, they would get in line behind “Slappin’ Flappin” and elect him Emperor of the Third Ice Age. Zeig Heil!!!

Flappin’s press agent would arrange to have him arrested for inciting chaos (actually, cross dressing will do it) and crowd surfing (felonies in penguin colonies), and then publish his autobiography, Mine Cough, in which he would continue his conspiracy theories and megalomaniacal (There is a whopping smart word, folks.) schemes as well as offering home remedies for respiratory ailments.  Then, when Flappin was released from his brief stint in the walrus jail to the strains of I Am the Walrus, he would be welcomed as a hero, the return of the phoenix, and other such mythological drivel. He would go around Antarctica, wearing John Lennon granny glasses, speaking at penguin beer halls and stadiums, building even bigger audiences that would pitch their feathered heads back and cluck straight up, “Flappin, Flappin, Flappin” until they were hoarse and needed one of his home remedies for irritated avian throats.

Over time Flappin would organize a new Penguin Nationalist Party and get elected to the Parliament, or Diet as it is called in the Southern Hemisphere. He would have such a strong majority that his squawk would be law. Loan sharks and Navy seals, gay polar bears, and especially intellectual walruses would be rounded up and tortured, their food and property expropriated for the Nationalist Party. They would be thrown together in igloo gulags (which I challenge you to say three times fast) surrounded by razor-edged barbed wire, forced to wear Mickey Mouse ears. Abject humiliation has never been known at such levels. Meanwhile the rest of the civilized world would cry out, “What has happened to the penguins? They were so calm and cute. Guess that movie went to their heads.”

Flappin would delve deep into the penguin psyche, maybe five millimeters, and play on old symbols, associating kangaroos with giant squid, in order to justify the necessary conquest of Australia. Crack teams of penguins would work undercover at zoos around the world and send coded messages back to Villa Las Estrellas and Flappin via carrier penguins on refrigerated UPS next day delivery with zip drives built into their frosty beaks. Meanwhile, back at base camp, Flappin would appoint evil henchmen to run his air force and secret police– Hurtmann and Blud. The PP, penguin patrol, would teach all penguins to goose step and flap salute the Emperor in parades, as the low rumble of war built up in the sunless Antarctic winter. (Wow, I like that last sentence. Re-read it in movie trailer voice.) And there is nothing more sinister than a sunless secret. Just ask Kim Young Fool of North Korea or Robert Dumbass Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

The attack would begin in late August, the end of winter in the upside down Antarctic monosphere. The Norwegian slice of Antarctica would be the first target. First of all and primarily, what is Norway doing there? Did they get into the colonization business after the bubble burst? It’s as absurd as the British owning the Falkland Islands, don’t you think? Did they not have enough snow and ice and bleakness at home? Holy Flippin’ Fjords! So you see, Flappin would fire up his big birds with a visceral hatred of all things Norwegian– mostly dried fish products and cheese– and then attack in darkness. By the Antarctic spring (also known as November) they would have overrun the Norwegian wedge and the four drunken security guards left to defend it. Then the rest of the civilized world, not wanting to start up the engines of war again, would concede that slice of ice to the Emperor Flappin.

Sadly, the rest of the March of the Penguins would look like a slow motion domino nation domination. They would swarm across the Australian slice of Antarctica on their bellies while wearing white ski jackets, virtually invisible to the naked Aussie eyes, or the eyes of naked Aussies. They would form flying belly wedges and break through unsuspecting Australian defenses. From there it would be a short hop, skip, and a jump to the tip of Chile and Argentina, up the Amazon tributaries to the banks of Bermuda, and world conquest. And, most tragically of all tragedies, this strange totalitarian penguin juxtaposition could have been avoided if the world had only listened to an old white guy with an obscure blog whose wife makes him shave. Sadly, those who learn to fail from history (and good hygiene tips) are doomed to repeat it.