Friday, December 12, 2008

Keep Your Rabbit Tight In Her Hutch . . . She Wasn't Born To Be Wild

About one in eight native, mammalian species went extinct, in Australia, after the arrival of Europeans. The whites didn't come with smallpox blankets, strip mines or fatally bland food. They brought rabbits. The rabbits got loose, multiplied and drew waste from their own fertile crescent. They ate crops. They ate grasslands. They gnawed rings of bark off of trees, killing forests and causing erosion. The poison farmers used to kill the rabbits killed birds as well, leaving other rabbits without avian competition for food. The rabbits were a vicious, undulating cloud of locusts that descended over Australia in a spiral. They were a plague on the proverbial House of Egypt . . . the only problem is, when you live on an island, where do you make your exodus?

Introduce a foreign organism into an established ecosystem and see what sticks. Usually, nothing does.

I think about cultures in the same way. I've lived in three boroughs of New York City. Each one was different. Not only was each one different, but they were laced with substrata of different cultures from neighborhood to neighborhood. From Long Island City to Astoria, Queens was not the same thing twice. Williamsburgh and Bay Ridge were like two different worlds at opposite ends of Brooklyn. Harlem and Inwood had an ocean between them, even though they are practically next door, at the upper end of Manhattan Island.
It goes on. Chicago is not New York. Grand Rapids is not Detroit. Atlanta is not Savannah. Portland is not Seattle. Miami is not Orlando. SanDiego is not L.A.

There is, however, one thing they all have in common. It isn't the language. It's the ubiquitous presence of national food and retail chains.

You've heard it all, before. Your fake-ass, dumpster-diver friends have screamed at you for getting a coffee at Starbucks, because they choke-out local business. But local business can do the same to other local businesses while, most likely, not treating their employees as well as Starbucks does. Anybody who has played a sport, entered a poetry contest or gone after "that one girl" knows they don't have a right to jerk their knee at fair competition. You've heard about Walmart, again and again. But, it wouldn't be there, if they didn't offer a service convenient enough to thrive. I don't really care about what these places supposedly do the economy. The economy is what you make it. The economy is an appetite without a stomach; a speculative panic engine . . . a mouse chasing irrationally fearful elephants.
I don't care about the goddamn economy. You weather it or it weathers you. It's completely intangible and it will rake you through the mud whether or not you think it's behaving.
I care about things that have fooled us into thinking they're intrinsically financial institutions. I care about what happens when something as physical as a literal invasion becomes confused with something as ghostly and jocular as the theory known as economics. I care about what these invading organisms do to your cultural ecosystem. Fins drink milk. Nigerians don't. I don't care about how much you spent on your food. I don't care about what you're eating. I care about who you are.

When an outside organism enters an ecosystem that wasn't designed to support it, something strange happens. Strange is one of two things, but both things are violent. Violence, in this case, not being something of blood, guts, fire and riot. Violence, rather, being something unnatural and abrupt, like a shaken bug realizing he's in a jar.

Introduce a foreign organism into an existing ecosystem and watch one of two violent things happen: One being that the organism either lays waste to the ecosystem, eating anything beneath it and killing it's competition or the ecosystem lays waste to it, because it has no room for outsiders. The second violent reaction being something more like a pustule or boil. The organism tries to assimilate as much as the ecosystem tries to assimilate it. Call it an attempt at some sort of covalent bond. It works until it doesn't work, because - when you get down to it - this organism doesn't belong. Except now, when the mutual rejection happens, the efforts the ecosystem has made to accommodate this outside thing have left it at a loss. It is crippled. It is weak. It's used.

It's for this reason I've been considering becoming a "Locavore". Unfortunately, I've eaten at Burger King three times this week, rather than packing my own lunch for work. I also did almost all of my Christmas shopping at the mall. But I don't fail to see the merit in doing otherwise. And I don't see it as a futile effort.
Unfortunately, the Local Food Movement has much more to do with the trend of environmentalism . . . which is a little too Maoist for my taste. As a means to an end, however, I think it can do much more cultural good than having the bragging rights of saving a little gasoline because you didn't buy food shipped from far-off places. Yes, it could, potentially, save fuel. Yes, if we were smarter than we are, it could promote the reintroduction of the novel concept of crop rotation. But it won't, for the same reason I went to Burger King three times this week.
We're consumers. We also put too much stock in theory. Theory like economics. Hell, it gets its own magazines, radio shows, newspaper columns, television shows, books, books on tape and seminars. We're a movable feast for the stomachless appetite of economics. We don't just let it chew us up. We follow that fucker around with our fingers around our ankles and our assholes bearing full-toothed grins. Maybe it's some sort of misplaced consumer guilt: We're consumers, so we must allow ourselves to be consumed.

Anyway . . .

Consumer, Locavore, Anarchist, Republican . . . All labels aside, we are what we eat. Your momma said it. Your schoolyard friends said it. You never knew what it meant, but you said it for no reason. It rolls off of the tongue like a Spanish swear word. Let me tell you what it means; if you eat, drink and buy from outsiders - from chains - you will be an outsider. Your house will be a haunt, in a no-man's land that used to be a city. Your identity will be lost, because you've sold it to Taco Bell and Urban Outfitters.

Am I smearing international trade? No. But I am saying that this whole "bail-out" probably would have never happened, if we didn't repeal all the crazy tariffs we used to put on international and cross-national goods. Am I saying you should feel like shit for eating Indian food? No way! Indian food is awesome. There's nothing wrong with enjoying another culture. But there is something wrong with propagation. A healthy plant's roots grown down. Vegetative propagation is an art reserved for nature's carpet. Grass is homogeneous and it chokes out anything that's different. It's also a simultaneous feed-trough and shit-catcher for livestock.

You don't have to be a delicate flower. Just don't be grass, either.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pox Blankets and other Cynical Clichés

I spent the night at my Grandparents' cottage home, overlooking a beautiful lake, surrounded by familiar things I never see anymore, feeling thankful that my friend was able to have Thanksgiving with their family after all. I was thankful that my friend didn't have to take me up on my offer to meal and relax with us. I was thankful that my friend didn't have to deal with the awkwardness I had forgotten and, had I remembered, never would have offered as an alternative to the awkwardness of being alone on a holiday. I was thankful that I got to look and feel like a good friend and be rescued from possibly looking and feeling like a horrible friend all in one week.
My father chose not to come, optioning to make himself a martyr to his feelings of failure and stay home. My grandparents were the usual poor hosts, acting like terrible guests with bad manners, demanding attitudes and abrasive habits that wear on their welcome . . . even in their own home.
I was thankful my friend was able to spend their time among their own family and not mine. I wasn't thankful for the meal, the relaxation, the lake or the cottage . . . which made me feel . . . selfish. Selfish in my own way.
It also made me feel the dull bite of my own cynicism.

I, this past couple of months, have been slowly shedding my cynicism, scale-by-scale. I had even started listening to a Christmas C.D. in my car, a little over a week before Thanksgiving. White after Labor Day, I know.
I've been choosing to accept the apparent foolishness of sentimentality over the brittle carcass I had been slowly putting on thicker and thicker under my own skin. Especially, after coming on quickly to Chanukah. I realized that I hadn't lit my Menorah last year, because I had felt so disheartened about my life at home.
I left home because G_d told me to move to Brooklyn. I moved to Brooklyn, without knowing why G_d told me to go. I moved back home, with my sister, knowing it was to bring my family back together. I did what I had to, but seemingly to no avail. I couldn't hold myself responsible for how they received the idea of my move only being a means to their ends. I couldn't be disheartened by what they chose to do with the fact that all five people were back in the same house for the first time in nearly four years. But I did. Last holiday season, I didn't light my Menorah once. My Shamash passed no flame. I said no blessings.
Late this Summer and early this Autumn, my sisters said they were moving to Chicago and my father said he was most likely moving out. I stopped going to worship, pray and commune on Wednesdays, at the place I had adopted as being my church. Wednesday night was my Sunday morning, until a few months ago . . . until I stopped thinking about attending until it was too late, as I walked my dog past the building.
It wasn't until last weekend that I had realized, in the presence of two friends praying over a meal I had cooked them, that I had even stopped praying before I ate.
I'd grown colder to the traditional holidays, recoiling at the sight and sound of anything remotely yule-oriented. I had stopped even telling people when my birthday was, for fear of having it thrown in my face with a smiling "happy birthday". I had stopped worshiping. I had stopped praying. I had stopped having any form of spiritual communion with anyone other than friends who happened to be believers anyway.

I had even forgotten my dreams.
Every one of them.
While discussing my misanthropic tendencies with my mother, after one of her therapy sessions, she asked me about my dreams. I said I had none. I even used G_d as a cop-out, saying I didn't want to get in G_d's way with my own plans and ambitions. The closest thing I had to a dream was buying an R.V. and spending my days as a vagrant citizen of the western hemisphere, staying anywhere just long enough to remain a ghost. My only dream was anonymity. I realize, now that it wasn't mere anonymity, it was a want to be forgotten. I didn't even want a funeral, should I die.

But I don't want that R.V. anymore. I'm praying, again. I'm planning on celebrating my birthday, in 2009, and throwing the first birthday party I've had in sixteen years. I've been listening to Christmas music and thinking about what to give my family and friends for more reasons than an aversion to the shame and guilt of being the only one to not give a gift. I'm looking forward to lighting my menorah. Maybe even rediscovering what it means to have a dream.
I'm also wondering about how I feel about how I felt today, at my grandparents' cottage.
Is it me, or the ghost of who I've been tainting his old haunts with an ectoplasmic bitterness?
The ghost of the boy who started this blog? A blog that I can only hope might contradict its own name before too long, even if it should retain a certain faithfulness to my lack of ever wanting to fully be a part of this society as a whole. A blog I started only a few weeks after I started spending massive amounts of time and conversation with a new and valuable friend. A friend who I don't know whether or not I should attribute these changes in myself to . . . but I can say that I at least appreciate the parallels. They know who they are and I know they'll be reading this, so they don't need to be cheaply named for just anybody to read . . . but they deserve a post, regardless, because I'm not just thankful that they weren't with me and mine, today. I'm thankful they're with their own, because they deserve more than awkward charity.

It's 8:15, Thanksgiving night, and I might need to be more grateful for what I have, but I'm grateful nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Mouth with Tongues

Nobody has ever been more aware of their own mortality - I think - than a boy born with the name Yehoshuah. A man with a body that some have considered to be more divine than biological, a man who's name means "G_d rescues", interestingly enough was stricken with one of the most human traits in the universe; the understanding that he would one day die and the desire to use actions and words as a way to transmogrify his body from something physical into a pure, insoluble abstraction that would make his short life not only extend through the full figure eight of infinity but also matter the whole way around. Not the meekest aspiration, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
So, given this dude's bleak foreknowledge, is it any wonder that he might try to squeeze the full etymological and cultural values out of every word he spoke, like he was trying to press an olive to fill an entire jar? No. Of course not. He wasn't the first, last or only Rabi to have ever done it. It's called Remez; the art of intentful, biblical inference.
Before the postmodern vogue of political correctness and the conscious effort to say the right thing because the sayer is somehow responsible for how the saying is interpreted, even and especially should that interpretation be a misinterpretation, there were people - mostly Rabis and unwed, teenage mothers - who took strong notice of every way that what they said could be interpreted for more reasons than sociological insecurities and an esoteric sense of political guilt. These Rabis, zealots and reverse carpet baggers talked this way because they wanted any interpretation of what they said to mean something.

Yehoshuah died and became better known as Jesus, but I like to call him by his rightful birth name rather than calling him by a word people gasp or shout when somebody cuts them off and hits their brakes on the expressway. I mean, G_d did kind-of pick the name. But, anyway, before he died and became "The Dashboard Figurine Formerly Known as Yehoshuah" he was still Yehoshuah (Yehoshua) and he said a lot of things to a lot of people, especially if you consider the fact that he was saying a lot of things inside of those things that he said to a lot of people. Yehoshuah employed remez like it was his job or something . . . well, it kind of was, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make, here.

Over time, a lot of what Yehoshuah said has been forgotten. Not because it wasn't written down, but because it's lost its cultural context (which is a damn shame, but now is not the time or place to get nostalgic . . . get it?). When he said "Turn the other cheek, as recorded in Matthew 5:39 and referenced in Luke 6:29, he meant what he said. Yes, of course, a slap isn't going to threaten your life, so take it like a man. No need to get defensive and slap him back - then you might need to actually defend yourself. But he also meant it as a means of empowerment to the downtrodden people he spoke to. A backhanded slap, in the Roman empire, was a means of belittling somebody. If a poor person was in the way of a rich, white Roman, they would get slapped. If a poor person spoke to a rich person without permission, they would get slapped. Like a bitch holding out on their pimp, they would get smacked in the face. The back of the hand was the belittling factor in the slap. You eat with your palm, you caress the skin of your lover with it, you hold your children with it. You don't touch something lower than you with the palm of your hand. So, if you offered the other cheek, it was a subversive way to say, "I dare you to do it again, but if you do it, you're going to have no choice but to acknowledge me as your equal." Trust me, before the end of the Victorian era, that was a big deal.
The phrase "Walk a mile in another man's shoes" is a misstatement of the original "Walk another mile in a man's shoes." which was said by Messianic Rabis, in the early church, because it was a Centurion's right to commandeer any citizen to carry their goods, armor, or whatever else their trained muscles were too weak to carry. The stipulation of this right was that they could use it but not take advantage of it. Apparently, the main provision of this stipulation was that you were only allowed to commandeer a citizen for one mile. If you were caught with a tired citizen who'd been carrying your items longer than that, you would lose your job. The suggestion of walking another mile was a way of saying, "Yeah, the system sucks, but you can kill it with kindness. Get a cop fired and that's one less jerk to make you his slave for 10 blocks."

Enter, now, my offering; free of the arguable semantics of cultural subtext and all that stuff you might not be in the mood to take without an archaeological grain of salt:

Psalm 37:11/Matthew 5:5 - The Meek Will Inherit

In Psalm, G_d meant what he said the way it's traditionally interpreted, in relation to that specific verse (not the beatitudes). David was telling people not to spend their time bemoaning evil people for their success, because the schemes of evil people will slow them down in the end. He was just telling people to be patient.
In Matthew, however, Yehoshuah was talking to people about the gifts people would receive if they were willing to accept the abstract nature of a gift that happened to be metaphysical. But, as always, I think he was talking about some other things, too. Especially, when he borrows from the Psalms' passage about meekness.
Our picture of the meek is a varied image. We see gentleness, kindness and, sometimes, spinelessness. I don't think this is unique to modern times. I think it's pretty universal, historically.
When Yehoshuah said "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." I believe he was saying a couple of different things. The first being obvious; don't be boastful. If you're boastful, people won't want to give you anything. Not only because they probably detest you and your bastard attitude but also because they might think you already have it.
I, however, also feel that he was being a little sarcastic to all the people in the crowd who may have been spending their lives using legalism as an excuse for inaction. Keep in mind that Yehoshuah was a Jewish Rabi and most of his sermons were to and for Jewish audiences. Even when he was going out of his way to speak to Goyim, the fact is inescapable that the man was a celebrity Rabi and surely had a following. One of Yehoshuah's biggest issues with the Hebrew church at the time was the legalism, pride and lack of Maccabeean backbone. I think that, for these people, Yehoshuah was being decidedly sarcastic. He wasn't unknown to have a sarcastic sense of humor. Take into account "Render unto Cesar what is Cesar's" passage for example. The guy is hilarious and if you don't get it, I'm sorry. It would take a whole other excruciatingly long blog entry to explain the joke - besides, a joke isn't funny anymore when you have to explain it, anyway.
The meek will have to wait until the world is dead to get anything. Just like a trust fund child waiting for the oncologist to come back with grim results on that blood test, they have to wait until the end to get a damn thing. The apocalypse might not leave them much, but they are promised the gift of a new world after it, in Revelations. So, yeah, bless you for waiting. You have a real gift for patience.
Am I being ridiculous? No.
Maybe not.
I don't know.
You tell me.
I just know that I had a totally irrational fear of success until lately. Even though that fear felt justified, I was still wrong. I was stealing control of my gifts from the god who gave them to me. I was using humility and strange, little, well-meaning excuses to make my inaction and resulting lack of success seem important and perfectly fine. And . . . I'm not telling you to kill, rape or steal here, but nobody put food on the table with meekness. From vegetables to meat, we kill to survive and that's pretty grim. Unless you're waiting for your food to fall off of the branch, but you'll be lucky if the birds, squirrels and other food don't get it first.
Am I saying it's a rat race? No. Am I saying I'm seriously considering Social Darwinism? No. What I'm saying is that I haven't observed a single sin that wasn't a mere perversion of the instincts G_d gave us to survive. When we ate from the tree of knowledge, we didn't become introduced to anything new inside of us, we just figured out that we could use these instincts in destructive ways.
We're all wired for survival because, for some crazy reason I haven't quite figured out, G_d wants us to survive. because (S)He loves us. And sometimes that means trying harder than you want to. Sometimes that means prioritizing your success over your sympathy for somebody's failure. Sometimes that means eliminating a threat to preserve life, even if it seems backwards to do so. Pacifism never got anybody anything except an Oscar and even that took the death of the real-life main character to make it happen. A mother who wouldn't kill for her child is no mother at all and a person who won't make sacrifices for their dreams has forsaken their gifts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beaumont's Brains Out

"Mother taught us patience; the virtues of restraint"
That's what Mission of Burma told us
That's what Catherine Wheel, Moby and several others felt like saying again.
But they also said it because they felt it failed them. They said it only to say that it wasn't enough.

Yes, Mother did teach us patience. Hopefuly, Father did too.
But they also showed us when they knew to stop. They showed us when it was inapplicable. They showed us when they thought that patience, in one way or another, only would enable us.
Most typically, when we took something for granted.
Almost anybody can remember the first time they kept their mother up.
Not practicing guitar. Not listening to the T.V. too loudly. Not laughing with your friends during a pre-adolescent all-nighter.
When you kept her up by no noise of your own but a lack thereof.
You kept her up because you weren't there at all.
You didn't tell her where you were going, because it just kind of happened and everybody decided to do whatever they did that kept you all out, lost in time, lost in reverie and lost in yourselves.
You didn't call, because of whatever reason you thought it was when you had to explain yourself.
But you know why you didn't call.
You didn't call for the same reason she looked like she'd drank a bottle of gin through her ear canals.
Her eyes may have been puffy and red from crying with worry, but you knew better than to congratulate yourself for your ability to remain important to her even in your absence. You knew she wasn't just sitting there, in the kitchen chair, wearing a bathrobe and holding her knuckles just because she wanted to see you come home safe. She stayed up all those hours because she had something to say.
Maybe it was a lecture.
Maybe she slapped you in the face and shook you by your shoulders, as if she walked in your room and found you sleeping, breathlessly with blue lips and cold toes.
Whether it was words or actions, she told you the same thing your heart screamed the first time you felt neglected; "DON'T TAKE ME FOR GRANTED!"
She suspended her patience and a portion of her grace, because she wasn't going to wait for you to learn to care. Selfishness is too natural. Too primal. Too goddamn easy.

As adults we're taught the world is cruel.
And, from birth, we seem to be taught that the world is unchangeable and unaccountable.
So, as adults, it's easy to call something patience when it isn't because water always chooses the steadiest, easiest and most effortless path. Who cares if the path is downhill? It's nature. It's unchangeable and unaccountable.

But, if you're going to listen to me at all - if you're going to pick one kernel of my point of view to heart in this whole technological life of yours - let it be this:
Sometimes, patience isn't patience at all. Sometimes, it's just a polite lack of self respect. Sometimes, it's the easy way out. Sometimes, it's you taking that evolutionary leap we all call a backbone by it's cervical vertebrae and saying "I'm sorry, pal. You're not on the guest list."

Jesus turned the tables and threw a baby fit at the temple gates.
G_d smote the Egyptians, flooded Mesopotamia, breathed Fire on cities and called people to war.
But, here we are, tranquil pools of primordial, spineless patience.
When our time and effort gets taken for granted by an employer, educator, bank, government office, co-worker, co-habitant or colleage, we keep our inside voice on and tell somebody else.

Fuck that.

Fuck it hard, fuck it sideways, brick on it's tailbone and throw its phone number away.

Am I talking about wrath? No. That's stupid and about as counterproductive as a methadone clinic.
I'm talking about putting your foot down and stopping your enablement of the neglectfulness, selfishness and character demolishing behavior of your brothers and sisters.
Are you the first person your boss calls when he or she fucked up the schedule and need an extra person on Friday night?
Tell them you're not anymore. It won't get you fired. If it does, you're lucky. You're not paid for your supposed puddle of a personality. You're paid for your time and effort because you could be doing a shitload of other things with it.
Do you have a professor who acts like he's the only class you have? Tell him. Go over his head. Probably do both. It is not the curriculum eating you alive. It's a dragon, with a chalkboard and a satanic tendency to refer all question to "the book" or "your notes".
Does your bank have a double standard about mistakes in your account, when it comes to who makes them? Close your checking account. Open a no-minimum savings account with no inactivity fees. They, more than likely, have one. Put five dollars in and never close it - just leave it. The paperwork and records they keep on that five dollars will cost them about as much every week. It might harm your credit, but only slightly. You don't need perfect credit. It only proves you're good at being in debt. It only proves you're a prime candidate to be taken for granted. If that sounds underhanded or passive aggressive, keep in mind that a bank is nothing but a reservoir of calculated risks. Let them calculate the risk they took in you, until you die. They're obligated to. Besides, you might be able to will eight dollars and six cents from that account to one of your grandchildren. Stipulate in your will that they frame it.
Do you have to spend all Tuesday catching up, because the guy two desks down from you had a hangover Monday and didn't do a thing and, now, you're quietly and resentfully burning the candle at both ends so your supervisor won't yell at the whole office for the mid-week progress meeting on Wednesday? Do something about it. He clearly isn't.
Does your roommate always fall asleep on the couch, with his girlfriend, watching Adult Swim, right before your friend comes over for coffee? Do you call your friend and ask him if he wants to meet up somewhere closer to his place, so he doesn't have to drive so far? Don't pretend to be accommodating to your buddy just because you're afraid to tell your roommate that you actually exist and don't enjoy paying rent for an apartment you can never have guests in.

In Jackie Brown, Beaumont Livingston takes for granted that his employer is understanding towards criminals, just because he is employed for criminal purposes. He goes to jail. He gets bailed-out of jail. He gets a shotgun seat in the trunk of his boss' car. Ordell Robbie, Beaumont's employer, takes for granted that Louis Gara is trustworthy and competant because they're friends. The problem is, Louis just got out of jail. He can't be that compentant. The other problem is that Louis has sex with Ordell's girlfriend, Melanie ralston. Melanie takes for granted that she can do whatever she wants and men will still want her around because she's a quick and easy lay. She pisses Louis off and he shoots her. Ordell shoots Louis. Mark Dargus and Ray Nicolette assume nothing can get by them because they're elite, trained members of the ATF's police force. Ordell takes for granted that he's too intimidating for an old man to kill. Jackie and Max get away with everything they needed and wanted, because everybody took everything for granted, but they didn't.

Am I saying you should only look out for number one? No.
I'm saying that, cops aside, the only people in Jackie Brown that didn't get lead poisoning by the end of the movie were people who took everything into consideration. They weren't unbelievably sly. They weren't superhumanly capable. Shit, they were old, bored and not the products of a lifetime of shrewd decsisions. But they didn't take anything for granted.

Are you going to let the people who effect your life continue to take things for granted? Are you going to continue to show them patience? Are you going to patiently put up with their self-centered attitude? Or are you going to slap them in the face and shake their shoulders before somebody shoots them in the face or upper torso?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Machine Pillow Fights Fascists

Woody Guthrie sang about this land. He sang about this place we have the hubris to call America, as if it's the only one. He said it was mine. He said it was yours.
Woody Guthrie said that from California to New York, from the Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream waters, it all belongs to us. Not us as any particular national origin, color, creed or gender. He just said that, in general, it belongs to us.
He also claimed to kill fascists. He said he was a machine, fired and oiled to grind fascism into oblivion. He wasn't a mercenary, a vigilante or a rogue soldier. He was, of course, speaking in purely abstract terms. He believed his music could be responsible for the destruction of fascism, if only the world would listen to it.

But what was he saying, about this land? It sounds so sweet, hopeful and brotherly when he sings "This land was made for you and me." Why, then, would he limit himself to the borders of a nation? Why not speak as a citizen of the world?

The borders we put around ourselves come from the same nationalistically separatist principals that fascism, itself is based on. The idea of a border; the idea of cloistering one's self off from the others, because the others are different is a fascist idea. Citizenship, furthermore, is a fascist idea. I didn't ask to be born an American. It wasn't my choice. It's just as unfair to ask me to leave, however, as it is to expect me to embrace the citizenship I was merely born into. This isn't a family and, as far as I'm concerned, the land that was "made for you and me" stretches away from you in every direction so far that it comes right back to the spot you stand.

I know I'm not saying anything new, but you can't really say that the idea of keeping those born on the outside of a certain place in a different class than those born within the borders of that place isn't fascist. It's the purest fascism.

I really like the music of Woody Guthrie. I even like the story between the songs; the man . . . but I'm not so sure he knew what he was talking about, when he'd start talking about fascism.

During this election year, it's this issue that makes me laugh. The issues of which concepts we simply accept are never challenged. The politicians simply wait for us to complain and, when the suggestion box is full, they read off their little cards and grope for answers or some sort of middle ground. We talk about immigration reform, but we don't talk about rethinking what it means to be a nation. We talk about protecting peoples' rights, but we don't talk about the Military Commissions Act. We talk about health care, but we don't talk about health. We talk about education, but we don't talk about actually learning.

We talk about the bad guys and not the good guys.

Because the good guys are impossible to identify, even when faced with a pane of reflective glass and a blinking, neon arrow behind their own head.

I don't know about you, but I think it's a damn funny coincidence that the only thing separating this coming election day from this coming Guy Fawkes Day is a single midnight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things the Grandchildren Should Know

". . . I don't leave the house much
I don't like being around people
Makes me nervous and weird
I don't like going to shows either
It's better for me to stay home
Some might think it means I hate people
But that's not quite right

I do some stupid things
But my heart's in the right place
And this I know

I got a dog
I take him for a walk
And all the people like to say hello
I'm used to staring down at the sidewalk cracks
I'm learning how to say hello
Without too much trouble . . ."
-Mark Oliver Everett/Eels

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If the Rainbow Tastes Like a Nine-Volt Battery, Why Bother Chasing it When You Can Suck on a Dime?

I was a pretty cute kid, when I was young. I don't know what happened that changed things so much. I do know, however, that when I was that cute, little kid . . . I fucking hated my birthday. Seemingly since birth.
My mother says that, when I was born, I didn't cry. I just looked around, like I didn't know what the fuss was all about. When I was a toddler, I'd cry, out of distress, if I even heard "The Birthday Song" being sung in a restaurant. I don
't remember any of that, really, but I do remember being at the zoo, for my seventh birthday, and being happy we finally left the picnic table, the cake, the crayons and the new toys. I remember being happy to walk away from it, leave it in the car and go in the zoo, where everybody could forget about me, while they gawked at the claustrophobic lions and hemorrhoidal spider monkeys from behind the safety of 4 inches of smeary, scratched lucite. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor, an hour before my school friends showed-up for my tenth birthday. I remember crawling out of my skin on the ugly, yellow linoleum, asking my mom to call everybody and cancel the party. I remember my ribs feeling like they were trying to close, like a clamshell, as I insisted to my mother that it was just another day.
I remember usually having fun by the
end of the day, but I can't remember once, in 26 years, wanting any of the attention. Not for being me. Not for doing something I would have done if nobody was watching. I just got older. Whatever I did, I wasn't trying to do it . . . so why reward me for it?
It isn't an issue of self-consciousness or self hatred. It's an issue of practicality.

It isn't my desire to control my life, in spite of the coersive aspirations of my peers and family. It's an issue of sincerity; of me looking at all the goings-on and thinking, "What the fuck? Why? Does another year for me mean that much to you? You can't be for real. You can't be serious."

Herein lies my tingling fear of success.

My dad, I'm realizing, had me pegged very
early on. He called me rebelious, since I was in the first or second grade. He was right. He said I was a control freak. Now, I might be pretty laid-back but, when it comes to getting shit done, I can be a total control freak. I've been getting better at reigning it in and refocusing it, but that still doesn't change the fact that my dad was right.
Don't get me wrong. My dad was and is a very loving and supportive guy. He never alienated me. He did tell me the truth, though.
Still, as a child, as a teenager, and through most of my adlulthood so far, I never understood where my dad was coming from when he told me I was afraid of success. It baffled
me. It puzzled me. It made me angry, because I never understood why he was saying it.
But, now, I know he was right.

I want anonymity. I'm not a h
ero and I don't want to be famous. Most heroes, when you talk to them, claim that they just did what anybody would have done. They're uncomfortable with the attention.

Me too.

I'm not a hero. I know I'm not. That's why I said it. But, when I do what I do well, I'm just doing what comes natural to me. I'm just doing what anybody would do, in my position. It's not that I don't have ambition. I'm just . . . afraid of success.

There's a 50/50 shot that, if I mail-in my samples, Friday, I'm going to end up with a job in the comic book industry. Something I raised myself on. I'm the kid who got into rock-n-roll through some sort of cosmic connection. I'm the kid who didn't have any older brothers or sisters to turn him on to The Ramones. I'm the kid who just felt naturally drawn to that record shop, walked in and liked everything he saw and heard. I'm the kid who used every cent of allowance on albums. I'm the kid who'd stay up, all hours of the night, using his favorite albums to teach himself guitar.
I'm that kid, if that kid found comic books, instead of rock-n-roll.
I always liked to draw, but I didn't have any direction until I discovered comic books. I got my first comic book, in 1988 or '89. It was the prize I chose, after winning a ring toss at a school fair. It was a
Marvel Mini Comics Reprint of X-Men #53
The story is nothing special, today. But, then, it was something new. It was like a cartoon, but smarter, edgier and completely private. You could read it, in a room full of people and not have to share any of it. You could laugh or gasp and nobody had to know why. You could share it, if you wanted. You could talk about it or show it to your friends, on your terms. But that's what made it special and, frankly, you always feel pretty cool being the bearer of things unknown (that new album, band, movie, coffee bar or whatever that none of your friends knew about)
I'd clean the whole house, sometimes, just to get my mommy to take me to the supermarket and let me pick out an issue of X-Men from the news stand (that's when Claremont, Lee and Silvestri were in their prime, by the way)
My kindergarten teacher didn't teach us how to read. My parents tried, but I did an alright job making it tough for them. So, when I transferred to a diferrent school, in first grade I was quickly discovered as anomalous among my classmates and put in a remedial reading class with kids that ate their snot, wet their pants and talked about the boners they'd get every time they saw a girl in a bikini on a beer commercial (yes, six-year-olds talk about their dicks, too). So, I happened to discover comic books and reading at the same time.
Comics made it interesting to read. I learned to read from comics. It was more fun that way. The words were way bigger than any word my classmates were reading in Dick & Jane books, but superhero books were still considered too lowbrow for my teacher to allow my parents to include them in my at-home reading journal. They stood alone and there was nothing that could ever tie them to school. To engage in something that was more acedemically challenging than school, yet still autonomous from the institution in every way was completely thrilling in every way.
My love of that specific storytelling medium put me on a higher reading level than my classmates and provided me with a passion and direction for my natural drawing skill that I had previously lacked.
So, when I doodle-up some sequential art, I'm just doing what comes natural to me. I'm doing what anybody else would do, in my position.
Enter the dilemma:
What if I get this job? What if the title I'm working on ends up gaining popularity? What if it goes nowhere but gets me noticed by another publisher? What if, a year from now, I'm sitting at a black-cotton-veiled folding table, signing things and talking to people I don't know between swigs from a flask I've been hiding under the table? What if, a year from now, I'm talking on the phone with some asshole from Wizard Magazine or The Comics Journal, while I'm smoking a cigarette on the toilet? What if, a few years down the road, I start my own creator-owned title (like I've been dreaming of) and it is greeted with great review and success? Or it's just a sleeper hit and gets huge, over the years? What if somebody makes a movie out of something I wrote and I get a school library named after me?
I don't want to be that guy.
I know most of that is unlikely to happen, but the thought of even the least of it is like a black, mummified monkey paw in my stomach, fingerbanging my esophagus one waxy, dry digit at a time.

I could say that I don't chase my dreams because my smoking habit's been leaving me a little too winded to chase anything. I could say that I won't chase my dreams because of some punk-rock, knee-jerk, anally-expulsive reaction to anything that makes me look like I'm trying or . . . maybe . . . selling out.
Shit, I'd like it to be either of those two.

But the truth?

The truth sucks.

The trugh hurts and Amnesty International could probably lobby to get it classified as torture.

The truth is I'm just balls-scared of success.
The truth is I'm too ungrateful towards the world to ever accept attention for doing something I'm good at or something that -god forbid- I actually like doing.

The truth is that it's been this way since I've been wearing rubber pants.
The truth is that 26 years is probably enough, and I should probably grow up, but I don't think I know how.

But do you wanna know the punchline? You wanna know what's really fucked up?
I don't mind being me. For some reason, I'm comfortable with this. For some reason, it doesn't bother me to be this way. For some reason, the only thing that really bothers me is you. When you say "Happy birthday!" it really bothers me and I'm asshole enough to ask you to stop. I'm asshole enough not to have a problem with that.
Isn't that kind of fucked up?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Crimeless Victim with a Job Complex who Should Probably Shut Up but the Ubiquitous Cathartium of the Interweb Makes it Too Hard

Dad's probably moving out.
I probably can't.
Not just because I'm unemployed.
I can't leave Mom alone.
Can I?
I can't make her a burden.
I can't be simply . . . beholden.
But codependency might bear some malt if it were allowed to germinate, right?
Probably not.
Not anything I'd want to brew and bottle, anyway . . .
. . . let alone, swallow it.

Applied for unemployment, today.
Yesterday, technically.
Today is an error in semantics.
Probably something profound, there.
A nice, little sentence to be misconstrued by the postmodern public, wanton for meaning in the smallest things.
Looking for signs, when they'd probably see them anyway . . . if they kept their eyes on the road.
I think I'm staring at the yellow, dotted lines.
Dash - Dash - Dash - Dash
Yellow - Black - Yellow - Black
Link - Link - Link - Link
One - Two - Three - Four
Hit it, CeeJay!

I made some money, today.
I made a logo for a friend's website.
Not a whole lot of money.
But today is probably just an error in semantics.

I took money for it because I kind of hate doing that kind of thing.
Your guts are like (&)
Do a drawing for yourself
A cartoon about the things you hate
Make your guts like (o)

Applied for unemployment, today.
A sponsorship from my worst enemy.
I should look up child molesters on the local Sex Offender Registry, knock on their doors and ask for donations.
At least there's a small chance that they could be reformed.
They're redeemable.
You can cut their balls off and make a good citizen of them.
You can't do that to a neo-socialist head nurse who doles out your regimen of police, taxes, wellfare and chemically treated water.
You especially can't do it now. Not when the head nurse is pretending to castrate itself.

Sometimes I just want the personal freedom of being the destroyer.
I don't want to put a bomb in the mailbox.
I want to be the mailbox. I want to deliver good news and bad news, all jumbled together in a cloud of upwardly mobile smoke and orange heat.

I want to be ironic.
I want to be an Abercrombie tee on a fly-infested, starving child with a distended belly and white crust in the corners of his mouth and eyes.

I applied for unemployment today.
It might mean nothing to you, but as far as the modernly conventional use of the word "irony" is concerned . . . it's pretty damn ironic.

But it's alright.
I've got a gallows humor deep in my belly that the weak of heart could mistake for a death rattle, sometimes.

ha ha ha - ah-choo.

chortle, chortle, snort.

"Chin up kid . . . things can only get better."

Are you implying this is as bad as things can get?
The pitch blackness before the rising dawn?
But we still have our health!
I haven't lost a limb.
Wait a little longer. Who knows, our butts might fall off.

Free food, right?

I guess things can only get better :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

L'sha-na-na Tova-va-voom

I spent the bulk of last night with a friend.
A sunshine and gumdrops kind of kid. Big, happy, Anime eyes kind of kid. The kind of kid who's smile looks like that goofy kid at the restaurant who took the lemon out of his mother's drink and shoved it in his mouth, stretching his lips wide, corner to corner. The kind of kid who doesn't fake it. She's just one of those folks who makes you feel like you're at a boring movie, throwing popcorn at the screen.
She's a fun person.
I saw her last night with less good to say about the world than I do on any day of the year.
I'd leave my fireplace roaring on Christmas Eve. I'd put a bear trap under my pillow for the tooth fairy. I'd even catheterize Cupid with one of his own little, red arrows. Last night, Jessi had me beat.
It was the first night of Rosh Hashannah and she was getting the last of her things taken care of, before she officially settled-in somewhere miles away from all of her friends. She didn't care. She didn't have any friends. Not even me. I'm not there for her, when she needs me. I'm hardly around at all. Too comfortable with routine to bother with friends, unless they fit into that routine. I consider her a friend and she does the same for me . . . but, really, I just called her on a whim. I was down town with nothing to do. She wasn't even the first person I called.

After I met her at her old apartment, after I saw how different she was, I went upstairs to help her clean up. She'd moved in with a fresh-out-of-highschool party girl who found out that partying was a lot more fun when she didn't have to worry about rent. Jessi was ditched by a baby girl who just wasn't ready. It was like a Niel Diamond song.
I helped her mop, clean the refrigerator and pick up the scraps and dregs of parties past. She almost cried.
She said she was wrong.
She said she had friends.
An easy thing to let roll off your back. "Shut up, baby. I know it." Easy to say it's no big deal. Easy, when you just called somebody up on a whim, because you were bored and didn't want to waste gas by leaving town when you had plans a few hours later.

She had the same plans as I. We went to a small get-together on the behalf of a mutual friend who was celebrating her birthday. Jessi wasn't sure it was important enough. She had friends, but not enough that she wanted to see.
She was self-conscious.

We arrived. We mixed-it up with the moderately sized crowd. We drank responsibly.

When I left, she ran in front of my car to stop me.
She had to thank me for reminding her that she had friends.

I didn't take the highway home. I didn't want to be around other cars. I took the scenic route . . . in pitch blackness.

I went down town on the first night of Rosh Hashannah to visit a friend in the hospital. He was discharged by the time I got there. A good way for him to bring in the new year, I suppose.
I called people to hang out with them, because . . . if I couldn't think of any apologies I had to make, I was going to do something else to make sure my friendships stayed in tact.
I was going to see people. I was going to be a friend. That would be the mitzvah of the occasion.
But the person I saw that night was an unplanned visit.

Was Jessi my mitzvah . . . or was G_d just calling me out on my own bullshit?