30 December 2011

-13… 2012… 2011… A Year Reflected, Juxtaposed

            Sitting here at the desk amid the piled chaos of Christmas packagings, empty beer cans and a bottle of amber Bulleit at my elbow.  Thinking about the year behind, wondering about that ahead with a degree of mixed whimsy and apprehension.  But the year past has been an interesting one:  apartment in Portland, a fascinating sort of new job, and a few good friends on hand in the area.  Gratifying days of coffee, microbrews, cribbage and darts.  Glorious days of a life well going to mush, precipitous edge of the downward slide into a comfortable dead end.
            But I take pause.  Where was I, one year ago?  Back in a North Dakota basement, in much the same condition only at a ping pong table instead of a desk.  And before that, Zambia, gin-soaked and bittersweetly spending the day with my fellow exiles.  Learning, I’d tell myself.  Experiencing life and always learning.  I’d tell myself, and tell myself still; probably have the words on these same lips in another year from now.
            It’s been a hell of a year, though!  Bitter winter storms, the tumultuous Minot flood, fry cookery, cross-country travel and acclimating to a new – marvelously new – city.  Bit of a demoralizing job search, firsthand view of our bit of the Occupy [your noun here] movement, house parties and happy hours and gratuitous what-have-you’s spinning into a nonsensically vomitous blur.  A good time, with scant reading so much as a ton of writing.  Some fifty-four shorts, plus a few others posted elsewhere.  Then there are some articles, some rants, some et ceteras.  Productive, in a very small way.
World events have had their ups and downs as well.  The end of two evil despots and a similarly malignant militant – bin Laden, Kim Jong Il, and Muammar Gadhafi – neither of whom I’ll much miss.  The economy is a shambles, ours and that of the Euro Zone.  But life goes on; people still can afford stuff, and the stuff we already have isn’t going anywhere.  At any rate, we can laughingly divert ourselves with the wacky world of politics, asinine candidates and an unending barrage of half-helpful policy decisions.  Thinking toward the future, I’ll still vote for Obama but I won’t have near as much hope or enthusiasm as before (a grey-ballot day).  It’ll be a vote for continued drone expansion, mollycoddling the rightwing fringes and galvanizing the golden parachutes of another batch of Goldman-Sachs academians.  But on the other hand, there’s always the second-term wildcard chance of a radical medicare overhaul or the odd war.  With the last troops pulled from Iraq America’ll be a theater short this spring.
But I raise a glass to the new year, tipping my hat to the old.  Onwards and ever forwards do we trudge, jaunt, march, bounce, happenstance, and drag on.  May yours (dear reader) be as interesting as you attempt to make it, and may we all find ourselves surprisingly more prosperous, a tad wiser, and a bit happier for it the next time around.

14 December 2011


            And for a brief tumultuous moment you’d wondered if the universe had any purpose to it.  Couldn’t possibly, reflecting.  You go back to the job search, glossing over an unending array of varied terms and specialized coinage.  Land Surveyor.  Chief Executive Officer.  2 Month Intro Promotion.  Social Media Sales.  Dancers 18 And Over.  Digital Marketing Manager.  Hardworking Drivers Wanted for Compassionate Positions.  Experienced Optician Wanted. Front Desk Agent.  Seismic Bracing for MEP Systems.  Graveyard Maintenance Mechanic.  Painter – Temporary.  The list goes on, unfamiliar garble as you lose interest entirely.
            So this is it, you think as you fetch another cup of coffee.  The economy.  The dawning of the age of Malthus, dog eat dog, ‘Warriors, come out to play.’  You finally un-liked Barack Obama on Facebook today, tired of the uplifting updates that have fuck-all to do with you.  2.5 million new health beneficiaries.  Pah!  Who’s to pay for health insurance without a job?  Same as last week with his bolstered education initiative:  ‘Congratulations, son, your newfound essay-writing skills will be a boon sourcing up a job.’  As if!  Labor.  Jobs.  Careers.  The people are starving and all we have is cake, cake and iPads.
            Shit.  The coffee doles from the carafe thick as sludge, heavy and black as fetid hangover dung.  Haven’t laid out one of those in a while, liquor being damned expensive out here.  Or maybe it always was more or less the same – just now begins the slow forward crawl into antiquity, the vague specter of inflating currency and rising prices about you.  Always an afterthought, wasn’t Ramen fifteen cents once sort of thing.  It’s Orwellian.  Bradburian.  Philip K. Dickensian.  Why does it happen?  You sit on the couch and stare bleakly past the darkened old-world television ahead, right on through it into the world beyond.
            Money ever-inflating, has been for decades and decades and shows no sign of stopping.  But what do you know, you’re no economist.  It seems like an unstable sort of system at first glance.  But hell, what’s two dollars on the loaf to a corporate big shot?  What’s four or five in twenty years if business can keep on booming, keeping on- something.  Liquidity comes to mind, but you know it’s not the word you need.  The rant grinds to a halt and all you can think about is the subtle rattle of the electric heat and the dank, impenetrable muck in your mug. 
            People.  Love them, hate them, it always comes down to people.  Maybe there’re too many of us?  Sounds likely, but only in the vaguest of gut instinctive sorts of ways.  Seething people copulating, breeding in too-big piles until there’s no place left to put them, swinging from apartment balconies like monkeys and stuffed into trailers on the outskirts of society.  All of them clamoring for the necessities:  Give us food!  Give us shelter!  Jobs!  Money!  Health care!  A sense of worth and accomplishment, the moon and the very stars!  Make us gods!  People.
            And you’re a one to talk, sitting there on the hide-a-bed second-hand sofa in a tattered terry, mug of muck in hand without a care, without a purpose.  You add nothing to the world – and you wonder how many others do as likewise.  It’s a weigh-down, a real dragalong.  An anchor!  Positive spin, it’s the jobless that keep the workforce at-the-ready, tag teaming in with the lackaday and insufferable degenerates that are always getting fired.  We’re like sharks then, waiting to dig into the misfortunes of others.  That’s game theory, eh?  One man’s win is another’s loss.  Schadenfreude defined, neatly repackaged as a lifestyle and imbued with a capital piety, doing the good work for the economy.
            Rambling angry thoughts, roving toward the coffee pot for mug three before jumping back onto the computer.  C/Linux Software Engineer.  Client Services Specialist.  Massage Therapist.  Dental Hygienist.  AFH Caregiver – CAN/NAR.  Fish Biologist.  More exotic dancers.  A somebody for society’s each and every, myriad niches to be filled by the capable.  You are none of these things, at least – you can’t imagine yourself as any of these.  It’s like picturing yourself with a goatee or imagining non-consciousness; beyond any sort of conjurable imagery, too far-fetched to visualize like.  You as a massage therapist.  Fixing people’s broken teeth.  Filing taxes and filling forms and johnnying a desk until the five o’clock punch-out each and every weekday. 
But those jobs don’t seem to exist, or at least – not for you.  You sitting there on a nice but still fold-out metal chair at a prefabricated stick-together desk, feigning interest in a list of job openings in the false hopes that one will say ‘You! We Need Somebody With a Flair For Cooking, Encyclopedic Knowledge of History, And a Smattering of Zambian Dialects.  Foreign-born Preferred.’  Something epiphanal and grand and worth shoving off an application towards, tie around neck and tremendous toothy grin on the face.  Something instead of wanting to just crawl back into bed with a bucket of valium and sleep until the economy picks up or a major war breaks out.
People.  It always seems to come down to people and bad coffee.

11 December 2011

Hunting the Hunter Within

            So maybe the art of debate is dead in America.  Lord knows it’s been missing in action so far in the presidential debates, has perhaps never seen any air time on talk radio, and suffers insurmountable stupidity on the forums and comment swathes of the internet.  Reminds me of a recent conversation I had about the deficit, tax loopholes, and a budget slash.  Try as I might to employ logic, reason, and ( yawn ) sourced facts against what I consider broad generalizations and gut instincts, we just couldn’t come to any suitable conclusion on the matter.
            Maybe that’s the problem with American politics – or possibly politics in general, or even humanity today – that the overload of noxious talking heads and the seemingly endless supply of information available to anyone with internet access suddenly makes everybody feel knowledge-empowered.  Masters of various subjects.  Intelligent, I suppose one could say.  But rather than actually trying to answer questions, a terrifying many people seem to go about picking out fact blurbs and twisting figures (and the very question) to suit their predispositions.
            And I wonder, has it always been this way?  I can recall the bitter (at time acidic) arguments of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists two-hundred and twenty-some years ago (eleven score, by Lincoln’s reckoning).  Yellow journalism, caricatures, inquisitions, libel and name calling and Elijah Lovejoy.  McCarthyism and countless panics.  Are people generally stupid?  Or is there more to debate than knowing your stuff and presenting it in a straightforward fashion?  Many tools in the arsenal, maybe...
            So if the art of debate is alive and thriving, I wonder if there was ever a real spirit of acquiescence and grace.  It could be those were just bullshit ideals too, Jesus preaching meekness sort of thing so that basilicas could be built and empires forged.  The information revolution has not only freed the people to boundless porn, but has given them the tools to be obtuse experts of most everything.  It’s the end of empires, the harbinger to the end of human progress.  It’s alive in politics on the floor of the House, on the angrily-lettered or else overly-worded pickets carried by protesters and occupiers and tea partiers.  It’s soon to be an end to bipartisanship and compromise.  Just wait – we’ll be living in an overbearingly effective dictatorship by the decade’s end, democratic principles having died the previous winter. 
            Not as bad as all that, perhaps, but it makes me wonder.  An example of things to come, conversing with a future leader in the world of business:

[Guy 1]  Ok, so I have $100 debt and will decrease spending by 50 ($50) and will increase spending by $50 ($100). So we are left with a grand total of $100! That is a Democrats idea of cutting the budget.

[Guy 2]  Hold up, Mr. Specious Reasoning; you'd lower your spending by $50 (freeing up $50 that you normally throw away - say on designer socks) and you'd be bringing in an additional $50 (Christmas card from your grandma). $100 debt would be paid in that scenario.

[Guy 1]  100-50+50=100???  [eyes boggling facetiously]

[Guy 2 shakes head, fist at God]


10 December 2011

“Look on the Bright Side – You Might’ve Been Noticed”

"Tut-tut, what language!"
Look at me.  Fucking look at me.  I’m not sure if I’ve quite mastered mind control, but it’s a decent attempt.  There she sits, iPod buds in her ears and polar blue eyes looking at the ceiling, the seats, out the wide side windows; anywhere but at me.  C’mon, bitch.  Look at me, just once.  Nothing.  I’m less than nothing, just a thing to not acknowledge like a lump of shit or a dribbling pile of vomit.  But I’m handsome.  So look at me.
              It’s impossible to meet anybody in this city.  I try, God but I do.  Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m just too old-fashioned a kind of fashionable.  C’mon, everybody likes a guy in a polo.  It’s a fucking Lacoste.  Look at these Ray Bans on my head.  Look at me.  It’s not like this stuff comes cheap either, I’ve got money.  I’ve got money, if that’s all you really want.  She’s not looking.  Maybe she’s just being coy, or can’t help being stuck up, or maybe thinks she’s a dyke.  I can’t make odds or ends of it.  All the girls in town are like this.
            I’m checking my collar – still popped, standing upright.  Hell, nobody seems to do that anymore.  What happened to style?  What the hell happened to cool, to partying?  Nobody parties anymore.  C’mon bitch, I know you like to party.  Beneath that knit scarf and those funky leggings there’s a little girl just aching to party hardy.  I used to be able to talk like that, and girls liked it.  At least, they reacted to it.  They fucking well looked at you, for one.  I can do fifty chin-ups, no sweat.  I can go all night if you like.  Just look at me.
            Fucking bus.  I need a car again.  Three more months and I’ll have that license back, be able to rescue the Mustang from the Admiral.  Fucking Admiral.  Never been on a boat in his life.  Never lived a day, that tight bastard.  I’ve lived.  I’ve lived, baby.  Look at me:  Mister Life Experience here, the goddamned article.  It’s these hipster cocksuckers that are spoiling my game.  It’s been a few years in the making, but the little shits that used to be all Emo took off the makeup, grew shit beards, put on shit flannels and read up on making beer.  I know their game, fucking phonies.
            Fucking phonies, girl.  I bet you like them, yeah?  Bet if I had a beard you’d look at me.  Christ, is there shit on my face or something?  Am I so out of touch?  I’m still me.  Same guy everybody loved in college.  Fuck, the Greeks couldn’t get enough of me.  Ol’ Brother Dawg Rawlins.  D-Raw.  The Rawster.  The fucking article.  I didn’t need to change, still don’t.  Look at me.  I voted for Obama – I didn’t really have a choice in it, but hey!  He got Osama, that’s something.  Last time I vote Democrat, weak bastards.  Last time I do anything just to be popular.  Maybe I should flex an arm muscle, pretend it’s all achy.  Yeah-
            That’s got her attention, just for a second.  You haven’t really changed.  Nobody has, bitch.  Five years ago I put all the girls like you to my sword.  D-Raw.  Back when whey protein and a Bowflex made a guy into a god.  Look at these; do you remember?  You were in a sorority – every girl was once.  Every girl that mattered, except for those Tri-Delts.  The Dairy Farm, we used to call that one.  Man, this sucks.  Just now going over the bridge, ages before we get to my stop.
            She’s turning, sitting sidesaddle with her face against the window so she doesn’t have to look at me.  Pretending to take in the river, the cityscape.  It’s nothing, all man-made.  I’m the real article.  Look at this, this perfect specimen of cool.  Look at me, you slut.  This is starting to piss me off.  And now I think I spy some skinny bearded faggot at the back looking away too quickly, checking me out.  I remember you guys too, punk.  I remember having to get a little physical, keep the gyms clear of you boys and your wandering eyes.  I hate you.  Look at me again and I’ll come back there and squash you.
            What’s wrong with this world?  Gays in the military, married in some places.  Girls chasing after bearded queers, the economy all to shit and Iran building a nuclear arsenal.  And weed still isn’t legal!  I’m glad I haven’t changed.  Shit, I’m glad life is all cyclical.  Give it a few years, and we’ll be back – people like me.  I don’t know where my bros have all disappeared to, but they’ll be back.  And I’ll be their fucking king, the guy that never stopped being real.  Dawg Rawlins, King of Cool.  Look at that, bitch.  You and all the bitches like you’ll be crawling back, standing in a fucking line for my bread.  Then I’ll get to yawn, act all nonchalant and look out the window while the begging begins.
            My stop’s coming up.  Fucking city.  The park is still blocked off from those commie occupiers, probably because it’s a biohazard with all their piss and shit.  That shit wouldn’t have flown five years ago.  There would have been more sane people like me to send them home.  Fuck, send them to a fucking hospital!  Whiney protesters and thieving bums, nothing but hipsters.  But my day’ll come.  Just you wait.

10 November 2011

Rudian Days Gone By

            My, but how the days have flown!  October gone and nearly halfway into November at the blink of an eye, I come back and see my last entry was nearly a month ago.  Cliché as it sounds, I've been tied down traversing the ropes of my new job.  A far cry from fixing sandwiches, I inspect folks’ homes for water damage, jot it all down into a file folder for insurance purposes, then harvest up the unsalvageable remnants of hearth and comfort with a keen brutality.
            An interesting line of work though, a steady 8-5 (or 8-17 by the Rudian reckoning) M-F sort of gig with overtime and benefits.  My first ‘real’ job, one might be inclined to say, two steps shy of a 401k account and family to stabilize my days into a steady trickle toward antiquity.  Up before dawn, cup o’ tea, commute thither, morning meeting, endless coffee, world’s-your-oyster service calls and the accompanying paperwork, clock off, back, and retire – a dizzying array of routine that is both comfortable to fit into yet unfamiliar to me in its rigidity.
            Steady and good, but already I’ve found myself cast into previously unimaginably detestable tasks – navigating the Portland highway system in a bulky yellow crate with a shitey-at-best GPS navigator to gods-know-where, crawling about on my back in the dank darkened crawlspaces pulling abrasive fiberglass insulation, gutting the charred remnants of a lethal apartment fire (unenthusiastically wondering the while where it was the unfortunate gal’d died), stepping on nails and picking up innumerable splinters and bruises on the way.  A knockabout fashion to experience the Portlandia, say.
            But what an experience!  A month and I’ve already seen most every corner of Portland and its surrounding burbs and near-off neighbors.  Posh mansions of West Linn and decomposing tenements off North Killingsworth, tax-dodge Washington communities across the river, countryside burb-ettes, and all the forests and hills and mountains in between.  A glorious state, this, and such a happening little corner of it I happen to currently find myself in.
            So my, how the days have flown this crazy month.  Not much of anything by way of writing in the meantime, but lots of little notes here and there, lots of time to think and mull and ponder et al.  About houses, mostly; the American Living Space.  I’ve worked most every variety of dwelling our society has to offer, and in all – from mansion to studio – they’re all built of the same cheap shit.  Pine beams and papered gypsum walls, staples and particle board and plastic odds and ends; less homes than cardboard cut-outs of an ideal, a grand keeping of appearances.  Wastefully without any hope of lasting a hundred years, if even twenty.
            Like everything else housing is simply another commodity, a thing to pick up, use or patch up, then shell off for a profit at some future date.  Or if it’s an apartment the aim is to pack as many people in as possible, charge the living hell out of them with as little maintenance as necessary, and find every which way to cling on to their deposits with cyclical regularity until the structures eventually cave in on themselves or the HUD buys them out.  With such a crassly impermanent mindset driving the market there’s really little wonder the ‘housing bubble’ ever happened, or the real estate crash, or any other geo-financial tragedy that has befallen us.
But I dunno.  Days flown by, this boyo needs to fit a bit of writ into the malaisey mix.  More to come, eh?

15 October 2011

Call Me a Communist, But...

So another weekend skiffles along full-pat, a stomach full of shepherd's pie and a mug of wimpy tea to salve a crampy cold I've succumbed to.  Uncharacteristically of me, for the first time in perhaps a week I've finally looked at the online news stories - Times Square and various city spaces around the world have been occupied by protesters decrying wealth disparity and a perceived lack of representation in government direction, Steve Jobs has suddenly passed on, Sonic Youth fronts Moore and Gordon separate (marriage now, band soon?), and the Treasury has delayed its final ruling on the fairness of China's currency valuation.

And then in lighter news, there's an interview with presidential-candidacy-hopeful Herman Cain on the NPR.  When asked by interviewer Scott Simon about the economic ramifications of Cain's proposed 9-9-9 tax scheme - in this case, instancing the proposed nine-percent sales tax on the price of bread paid by both prince and pauper - the Godfather's Pizza magnate responded:
On a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread, Bill Gates and every rich person is going to pay the same tax as someone who's on the lower end of the spectrum. But Scott, I'm not going to play the class warfare card. You have to compare the taxes they pay today. If you pick a certain income level — and I'll pick one and walk you through it, OK?  (Simon: "Sure.")  I'm going to use $50,000 a year, since that's approximately what the median income is for a family in this country. [For a] family of four, $50,000 a year. Under the current system, based upon standard deductions and standard exemptions, they're going to pay $10,200 in taxes. Under the 9-9-9 plan, the middle 9, they're going to pay $4,500. That leaves $5,700 to apply to that milk and bread in terms of the taxes. You have to go through the numbers of each individual situation.
Golf clap, Mr. Cain.  As suggested, going through the numbers every rich person will pay the same tax, in dollar amounts rather than proportionally.  The $5,700 that average family may save still has to go towards the mundane (and now more expensive) task of paying for the groceries, the wares, the thingamajigs.  That average American family spends nearly all its cash on (you guessed it) these expenditures, with little by way of money to save.  An overall raising of the levy on purchased goods will really do little by way of a tax break for the Jones', and in many cases will end up being a tax hike.

Believe it or not, but beyond the investment of assets and grandiose luxury purchases, the very wealthy consume roughly the same by way of living necessities as their less-than-wealthy peers.  Check out this informative graph.  The top fifth of American earners spend roughly $65K a year of their average $145K income, proportionally less than the middle fifth's $35K/$45K or the bottom fifth's deficitous $18K/<$10K.  There's only so much money a family can really spend on consumer goods before the rest of that money simply piles up to multiple zeros on a banking ledger.  Rather than further improving the affluent's quality of life any, beyond a certain point the money apparently makes no difference.

Not that I'm a commie!  But I'm simply saying that a consumptive-based tax plan is a bad shake for the majority of Americans.  9-9-9 - basically a flat tax scheme - is just another thinly veiled proposal to make the wealthy wealthier at the spending class' heavy expense.  You (dearest reader) and I are essentially indentured servants in this life, scraping together the dough (by serving the proverbial Man) to buy the essentials, enjoy/discard/replace the baubles, and live in the apartments of (or pay the mortgages to, if You are a home-owner) said loosely-defined and still very metaphorical Man.  Mind you, that's just one way to look at it.  Negative lens, mayhap.

But that's largely what the Occupy Your-City-Here movements are so miffed about, for those who've until now not 'got it'.

12 October 2011

The Tao of Ba-gel

Halloa, my fingle-dingle friends! Another weekday morning in the Land of Dan, swilling a lukish kinda cuppa and prepping for a bit of work this aff.  Another day, another dollar. Yet somehow I feel vaguely energized and upbeat, settled stomach and the lot.

The cause isn't a hard recollect: morning bagels make my day. Normally not wont to eat breakfast, for the past few months I've begun getting back into the habit. Grits and eggs, single-servings of fruity Greek yoghurt, the odd bit of fruit, and most recently the insert-Spam-here breakfast sandwich. English muffs at first, topped with fresh tomato, cheese, egg, and Vegemite. But I've stumbled onto the hard stuff now, the things good bagels are made from.

Salmon cream cheese spread, fresh red onion, soon to be capers and sweet red peppers and a varietal blend of other things. The best part of this comestible gospel I'm spouting is that anyone can do it, if'n they have ten minutes. One minute of prep, four to cook, and a civil five to enjoy. And most anything'll work; to wit, I topped my egg salmon bagel with five thin slices of fresh fried sweet potato! Sweet potato! Magical stuff that'll leave one feeling warm and good-humoured and not at all peckish til the after-work pub crawl.

Give it a go sometime.

09 October 2011

"The Roughest Farewell" pt. IV


            I awake from my nap after what seems like weeks, the sun by now just passed the sky's highest point and beginning its way toward the western horizon.  I sit up and stretch the stiffness from my shoulders and lower back, a hearty yawn on my lips- stifled, when I see the distant clouds of dust kicked up on the southern road.  Four horsemen, maybe five approaching our Skokie Pines.  Five horsemen.  Trouble.
            I leap to my feet, a chill in the pit of me as I begin to leg it back to town.  Five horsemen, doubtless after Ned.  Would they be state marshals?  Pinkertons?  Federals?  Unrelated?  How much did they know; could they know what horrors transpired the night before?  A chill in the pit of me, as cold and horrible and lifeless as they come.  What could I say?  What should I say to the townsfolk?
            On the rocky path back, sprinting and bounding over odd stones and dusty ruts as the little township draws sluggishly nearer.  I can’t run fast enough, it feels.  Legs of iron, knocking hardened heels on stagnant earth.  Kicking up a dust trail of my own.  I’m finally running past the First Church – mounds of flesh in the yard behind – past the tailor, the smithy, to the office.  Dead empty and lifeless, the lot of them.  Heat of the day, it comes as no surprise.  Were it not for the icy pit in my stomach I might succumb to the stroke.
            I burst through the heavy wooden door, surprising Angus and little Cousin Clara playing the tarot on the great wooden desk.  “Ye gods!  Men approaching town- fetch Horus,” I tell to her, surprisingly out of breath now that I’ve reached my purpose.  I falter on towards the gun cab as the two remain standing on, watching me with ignorant fishes’ eyes.  “Now, dammit!” I wheeze as I pull out a brace of Winchesters.  I hurl one blindly at Angus and grab up a box of cartridges.  Gods, but my hands quiver.  I drop them, one-two, as I make to load up.
            “Man Jesus, Sheriff!  What’s got you all huff n’ puff?” Angus gawps with the rifle hanging in his arms.
            “Men!” I cry breathlessly.  “Five men approaching town on horseback.  Moving fast.”
            “God Zeus,” he whispers, at last understanding.  He scrambles for the cabinet, changing out the rifle for the double-barrel ten gauge and a box of shells.  I’m still struggling to load, still dropping cartridges on the floor 6-7-8.  Hands everywhere as I stumble towards the door.  At last I’ve got the thing locked and ready and I’m stepping back out onto the porch as Horace walks briskly up with Clara close behind.
            “I hear there’s trouble approaching, Cousin Spur?  To do with the outsider?”  Despite the raised eyebrows and the gapen mouth of concern, Horace seems excited; positively excited.  I nod and he raises clenched fists towards heaven.  “If the government wants trouble, then they shall have it!” he exclaims.  “I’ll alert the folk.  We shall meet them prepared.”  Horace rushes off shouting, “Invaders!  Marauders!  Arm yon selves!”  Skipping, dammit.  Skipping down the street and shouting.
            “Mind you do nothing drastic, Our Horace!” I cry after.  “Let me talk to them!  Mayhap it’s nothing!”  But there’s a sickly foreboding about the words as I say them.  “Mayhap it’s nothing.”  I stand there with my rifle in the shade of the porch, Angus poking out his head through the doorway.  We both stand, taut and unnerved for one minute, three minutes, on to ten.  Finally with a hissing sigh I relax my whitened grip on the wooden stock.  I tell to Angus, “Just sit back tight in there.  If’n there’s trouble to say, come out blasting.”
            He nods and largely closes the heavy door, and I take a seat in the creaky rocker with the Winchester in my lap.  There is movement in the buildings across the street; I can hear the creaking of the floorboards grind away to stillness, an awful sort of stillness that precedes a thunderbolt before it tears the sky apart.  And then…  hoofpats from the east.  Clolloping calmy round the last upward bend into town.  I set my rifle to one side against the office wall and make to light my pipe.  I can’t for the quavering hands, so I simply hold it in my lap and wait.
            The five horsemen ride up the main drag, two to the front with the others hanging behind.  The laggers seem awful nervy, the fat man up front right on edge.  But the slender fella with the drooping moustaches rides with a buoyant calm – though he also seems eye the place with a keen regard.  It is him I fear, my instinct tells me.  I raise a hand to them in halloa.
            “Greetings, y’all,” I chirrup in a slightly crackling voice.  I make to stand on warbled legs, pressing an arm nonchalantly against the roof beam for support as I lean to one side, pipe still in the other hand.
            “Greetings, Sheriff,” the thin man replies in a robust, haughty sort of voice that sends shivers down my spindly spine.  His is a look of triumph, the cat that caught the canary.  “I suppose you would be the one to know what became of a friend of ours, what passed through here yesterday morning?  He was about on business, specifically to see your office.”
            I clear my throat, an idea sprung to mind.  “Yessir, a Mr. Norris it was.  Collecting renders for Caesar.  He came and went by noontime, once he’d seen to his business…”  I’m starting to feel a little more confident, the blood returning to my hands and feet and hopefully face.  But the gangly horseman nods on in that knowing way as he pouches and rolls himself out a cigarette.  It’s unnerving, him sitting there atop his Appaloosa nodding on in silence with that smirk.  Pressing out the lumps and rolling that cigarette between his thumbs and fores.  He places the thing on his lip and produces a match, shooting me a sharp glance as he lights it.
            “Afraid that isn’t possible, friend.”  He inhales deeply and tosses aside the matchstick.  A cloud of smoke explains, “Afraid he was to meet up with us outside of town once he was finished up hereabouts.  Straight up, if you understand me.  We waited til nightfall and a bit through the morning, on the off chance he was enjoying your town’s hospitality.”  He pauses there, taking out his cigarette with two fingers and admiring it at arm’s length a bit.  “We waited.  He didn’t show up.  Now we’re here to figure why, precisely.  So?  Where is Ned?”
            The blood again flees my appendages, my knees feeling like lead weights.  The man is clever, alleys covered and all.  But what is he?  Contract?  Badge?  “I told you what happened,” I tell him, trying to rouse some semblance of authority to my voice.  “Now who are you to question me?  I’m a sheriff, after all.  I’m the law round here.”  I tap my pentangle with a thumb for emphasis, yet can’t rid myself of the nervousness.  I’m playing a losing hand, too far gone to fold with not enough guile to bluff it out.
            “Me?”  He laughs, a husky smirky sort.  “I’m the Lord on High, in these parts.  I’m Marshal Conniff Starks.  And I’m afraid I've heard a few things about ol’ Skokie.  S’why we decided to escort Mr. Norris along.  S’why we’re here now.  S’why I’m asking you what it is you’re doing with that Winchester perched up against the door frame, and why you’re shitting bricks at a simple question.”  His dark-eyed gaze is slicing right through me now, cutting me to the very quick.  He spits out his cigarette and puts a hand on the revolver handle jutting from its holster.  His men are already guns-in-hands, ready to follow suit should the necessity arise.  Never have I been so close to death, I’m feeling through every last strand of myself as I stand there on the open lopsided porch outside the office.  As the man says, shitting bricks.
Starks sucks the spittle off the side of his great moustache.  “So I’ll ask once more-” he begins, cut short by an explosive report from above Weebleman’s.  The five of them are cut short as the first report is followed by a dozen others, horses trying vainly to wheel around as they and their riders drop to earth left and right.  The door swings wide as I scurry over for my rifle, catching me hard atop the head and dropping me flat; Angus comes out a-screaming and empties both barrels.  Catching Starks square in the chest, I believe.  As I roll over on the porch I can see him sprawled out lifeless and bloodying up the dusty earth, his mates all strewn about him.  One of his boys had the horse shot from under him but has managed to sprint off behind our Sheriff’s Office.
“Get the outsider!!” Horace shouts wildly as he comes charging out with a bayonet-tipped Springfield, followed by a dozen screaming fellows brandishing pistols, cleavers, and axes.  A few fall upon the fallen marshals, laying in to chopping and kicking.  The rest run off in pursuit, and after an exchange of shots and a bloodcurdling cry of anguish return with the decapitated head of the last.  I can’t climb onto my feet, legs unwilling to support me – legs made of lard, you might say.  I sit on the porch, shocked at this gratuity opened up upon the road of my town.  Carnage.  Bloody, horrible carnage.
And more yet to come, I realize with added horror.  Starks wouldn’t have been fool enough to come without a plan of contingency.  We could well have the Army sent down upon us!  Carnage tenfold, if that were the case.  Angus strides up, shotgun tipped across his shoulder in a cocky disposition.  “That’ll show’m.  Goddamned federals.”
I shake my head as Horace stands amid the corpses, admiring the scene.  “The day is ours!  The bloody business is finished, and there shall be much feasting the night!”  There’s a general whoop as men, women, and children step out onto the road with their weaponry, exulting with each other in the afternoon’s ambush.  “Prepare the fires!  And prepare a pit to inter the desecrated fallen.”
I still shake my head.  Fearing the worst to come, I suppose.  And perhaps also lamenting our collective action, the rashness of our nearest past.  Uninvolved in the melee, I can see now with outsider’s eyes the town for what it is.  We are outsiders, soon to be given a rough farewell of our own once the world-that-be figures what’s become of its representatives.  “We’ve lost,” I mutter, throwing head into hands.
“But none of’m escaped,” Angus corrects me, perplexed.
“None of them had to.  Now all we can do is wait for the rest.”

*          *          *      christ! see what transpires next, soon    *          *          *
or check out the previous installments:  I  II  III

08 October 2011


            Erik needs work.  Needs work like a body needs air and food, like the human spirit requires open space and an undue sense of importance.  He realizes it one afternoon as he sits down with his first cup of coffee, waiting for his computer to boot.  Deju vu, as though he has done all this once before.  Nausea, as he realizes not once but many times with nigh-on religious repetition.  Awake piss percolate coffee computer email porn porn porn email coffee jobsearch porn and a Hot Pocket.  Every day, burp on cue.  The same old song and mirthless shuffle, the ever present curtain of despair, the weighty metaphor wrapped in a flimsy simile. 
Erik needs work, like the protesters downtown all have for a week.  Longer than that, but for a week now they’ve made a note to air those grievances, blocking traffic and picketing the various offices and establishments of the Man that be.  Tie-wearing champagne-tossing golf-playing gracious-tipping fuckwads, 401k stock options and the golden parachute – In Case of Emergency Break Glass.  The 1% at the top of the totem heap, pressing down the cornerstone 99.  Cornerstone folk like himself, Erik thinks angrily as he leaps into action.  Rummaging through a clothes-heaped closet looking for a flattened box, big black marker and a bit of duct tape on a cricket bat.  It reads-
Erik Needs Work
BS in Accounting, 3.7 GPA
Some Experience, Dependable
Give Erik a Chance!
            A chance.  Entry-level boot licking, extra hours on the weekends.  I’m-not-desperate-but-I’ll-do-anything aim to please can-do spirit.  The sort the market thrives on, the reason the system’s now broken down; not enough chances being taken.  All the fat cats and their connected underlings simmering in a big incestuous pile of corruption and complacency.  Letting the country go to the dogs, letting the dogs get gobbled up by the Chinese.  Metaphors, dammit.  Apt generalizations catching a broader swath of the forest, a broad-thinking Erik thinks to himself as he leaves the apartment with the weighty sign propped up on his shoulder.  Slung like a rifle, ready to fire off a few rounds at the Man.
            He gravitates downtown into the belly of the unblinking city, playground of the elites and self-important and their cringing toadies.  He can hear cars honking and as he follows the sound he can start to hear the roar of his fellows.  The 99%, stopping up a traffic circle as if it were a cork in a bottle.  Diverting bourgeoisie traffic and the slave-ship bus lines, waving signs and drawing honks of support and ire from the detouring cars.  Two cops stand uncomfortably on the corner opposite, watching the swell and talking amongst themselves.
            Erik gravitates across the way toward the human barricade, an unnatural conglomerate of recession.  High school punks and bums and college dropouts, soccer moms and truck drivers; black white and every-color credo under the sun intermingling amicably.  All shouting and chanting and singing in one big harmonious din.  Aging hippies passing the mantle to youthful hipsters who’ll post a picture then scrap it first chance on the Ebay, when it’s lost its luster.  Joe the Plumber rapping with the local Stitch n’ Bitch as tribal tatted ama-bras dick about with a yo-yo.  It's a jam band atmosphere, complete with the frazzle haired groupie woman dancing unconsciously with wild hands.
Dueling speakers blare against each other, both over the top of the ideologues with the megaphones and clipboards and agendas.  They’re trying desperately to organize, to get this thing in order before the police show up with the fire hose and wash it all down the gutter.  Directing the directionless, stand here, more signs there and the occasional nothing inflammatory.  Trying to separate the chaff and chavs from the posterboard 99%, to make a marketable representation of the unpleased whole for the vis-ed student orbiting about with his camera.  Erik gets tussled along towards the front of the north-facing line, hold your sign high like.  Set shoulder to shoulder between a tobacco-chewing Vancouverite and a middle-ager come straight off from Denver Street.
It’s an exhilarating thing, standing there in the face of traffic after spending a lifetime scurrying across roads.  Three lanes of vehicles being dumped off at them, having to jerk off to the right down another one-way sidestreet.  Delayed from the precious, indifferent business of the day.  Erik can see their faces through the windshields:  irritable and awestruck, smiling and fearful and confused.  Some downright upset as they roll down a window and shout something unintelligible as they drive off.  “I oughtta run you bastards down!” one screams.  Others wave and honk supportive blips of their horns as they continue on toward their jobs, affable scabs. 
More police are arriving, hats wrapped in plastic to ward off the gentle mist that collects on their yellow raincoats.  Massing on the corners while a few direct the traffic, a pair approach the crowd and begin arguing with one of the bullhorn-carriers.  But the Body stands resilient, each member a part of a larger defiant clog in the commercial chain.  Everybody doing their bit.  Erik feels an integral part of the group, feels he can really puff out his chest that he is the 99%.  And then he hears his name.
“You there!  Erik!”  A well-groomed head calls from the back of a limo car stopped on the street.  Erik wonders if he’s being addressed.  “Yes, you!  Erik, with the sign!  Do you really have an accounting degree?”  He nods dumbly, remembering what it was he’d written on his picket.  “We’re looking for somebody in our accounting department, entry-level.  Hop on in!”  The door opens up as the well-groomed man scoots over to one side of the seat.
“Man, fuck that Wall Street shitbag,” Vancouverite shouts into Erik’s ear.  Denver puts a hand on his shoulder, reminding him about solidarity.  There are honks coming from behind the limo and the driver looks like he might move along.  Meanwhile sirens are perking up from  the southern side of the protester's circle.  To stay or to go, Erik feels torn.
“You need a job or not?” Well-groomed calls from the car irritably.
Erik needs work.  Needs work like a customer needs satisfaction, like a sports utility vehicle needs a wider place to park.  He breaks free of Denver’s grasp and ignores Vancouverite’s reproaches as he jogs up to the limousine.  Setting down his picket on the damp tarmac he makes to get in.  “No, bring that along,” Well-groomed instructs him.  “You’re going to need a resume.”  Erik and picket slide into the car as the door shuts behind them, driver pressing on the gas and taking them uptown as the police start unpacking their great orange nets from the backs of their vans.

05 October 2011

Misplacing My Ire?

So the other (week, was it?) I furrowed a single brow at news that a CIA drone had successfully found and killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic talking head of al-Qaeda.  Not because of who he was or what he stood for, but because of his American citizenship.  I'd been similarly nonplussed back in May when another drone strike targeting al-Awlaki instead killed a couple of others (reputedly al-Qaeda operatives themselves).  I'm not the only one ruffled by this incident:  the ACLU and CCR have launched lawsuits against the United States government, and a slew of literary ire has been pulled from the quivers of bloggers and op/edders.

Citizenship bears with it certain obligations, but it also yields certain unalienable rights- although then I have to second-guess myself when I remember the rationale of Rousseau's Social Contract, that those bonds can be broken.  But then bearing in mind al-Awlaki's location (questionably neutral but neutral Yemen), the lack of due process, the mode of execution-  I don't know!  My opinions are all in a bally muddle in this somewhat singular set of circumstances.  Because the man was undeniably inflammatory and rather possibly linked to the operational doings of al-Qaeda.  But is that worthy of targeting him for assassination?  Is it assassination, in this instance?  Again, a muddle.  Is this a precedent for wantonly targeting American citizens for courtless death, or is al-Awlaki's citizenship merely a side-note in a larger campaign?

In any case, I posed the question on the Facebook (while generally an open invitation for vitriol and disappointment, I have faith enough in the friends I keep that the conversations will be insightful and interesting) for a bit of discussion, citing the instances of Kaczynski and McVeigh as examples of home-spun terrorists caught and tried.  Perhaps a more apt comparison might have been David Karesh, but I received some good responses from a variety of sources, including a professor from my old college days.  Most notable among these was the lengthy and I'd say well thought out series of arguments posed by my friend Nate:
It's a tough call. Kaczynski and McVeigh were caught alone in the U.S., not hiding in a foreign country with a lot of protection. If it is true he was waging war against the U.S., he becomes a combatant. This doesn't forgo his citizenship, but open war against the U.S. does put you a bit beyond normal due process. And as compared to Osama, Al-Awlaki moved around a lot more, preventing a planned raid of the same scope. Unfortunately in the current global threat scenario some information simply won't be fit for public consumption. There is certainly a line in which government can and cannot infringe on a person's rights. It is my opinion that those rights may be infringed upon when that person makes war upon the people that government represents. To try and make a point of paramilitary ignores the forest for the trees. Surely lives are being diddled with on both sides, in the end it mostly washes out. I would agree as a concept a bombing should be avoided when civilians are at risk, but there are things to consider beyond that one angle. There are equally many scenarios in which more civilian lives are lost in other ways of dealing with Al-Awlaki. Take for instance the infamous Blackhawk Down, in which a raid meant to reduce civilian casualties ended up creating tenfold. In a perfect situation Al-Awlaki would have been arrested and brought to trial with full due process. It is not a perfect situation, and I believe the situation warranted the loss of that privilege. I will say that I would have supported the same tactic used were McVeigh hiding in Generic Lawless Christian nation attempting further attacks against the U.S. Or Generic Liberal terrorist in Lawless Socialist state. Unfortunately, many of the people who agreed with the death of Al-Awlaki would have disagreed were he White/Christian. There is definitely an anti-Muslim undercurrent in the public support of the War on Terror.
While I can't argue with many of his points- well, precisely because I cannot fully argue with many of his points without that vague sense of doubt, I wonder if this may be a waste of time on my part.  Another panic worth abandoning, like so many others cast aside in this decade-old War on Terror being waged.  Besides, there may well be more important things afoot, like the Occupy (Your City Here) movement sweeping the nation or the impending reelection of Vladimir Putin.  Or ending the death penalty.  Yet as I move on I cannot help but wonder in what ways this undermines the value of citizenship, or if (like patriotic buzzspeak 'liberty' and 'freedom' and 'democracy') it really hasn't any intrinsic value at all.

What strange and odious things does this abandoned panic portend?

30 September 2011

"The Roughest Farewell" pt. III


            Morning next.  Sitting in the dark and smoke-filled office with my boots propped up on the pinewood desk, throat raw and dry from a night’s sit.  Like pemmican, I suppose.  Heavy lids dip low upon my tired eyes as I take another sip from the earthen triple-x jug set beside me on the floor.  It’s been a long night, a real hoo-haw of a thing.  My stomach muscles ache, my back hurts, my knees are scuffed, and the piles are acting up again.  But worst of all are the memories.
            “Lest we forget,” I prost myself as I tipple back anew.  Another facet of the First Church plot, another little hump of earth to forget, more water in that vast well of souls.  Lest we forget.
            “Man Jesus!” Angus whoops as he swings open the office door.  A blinding blade of light cuts in behind him before the door swings back to.  He plants his bony ass on the desk and motions over for the jug.  “That was a real hoo-haw, last night was.  Hell if they send any more tax agents round these parts!”  He swigs a taste and croaks, “Gods-blasted government.”
            “Yeah,” I sort of sigh tiredly.  Or is it wistfully?  Lest we forget.  “Those damned federals.”
            Angus hums his approval as he idles over the jug, neither drinking nor passing with the dad-gun thing set in his lap.  “Yeah, poking their noses where they dun’t belong.  Upsetting the general will, you know?  Greater good,” he mutters, quite definitely in wist.  Tottering the bottle in his lap, neither lifting for the swig nor passing it on.  Giving me the ants.  I stand.
            “Gotta get me some air,” I say, I fear with a trickle of the sweats and a shake.  Vomitous uprisings in the bowels, bit of the spleen upacting.  Lest we forget.  Hitching up my belt I decide to holster the shooter I’ve left lying across the desktop. 
            “Specting trouble?” he drawls from beneath the great flat brim of his hat.
            “Nah, just holds my pants up.”  I exit into another blinding swath of sun rising overhead.  Not nearly so high as to leave a shade on the porch, yet well above the spread of town to make it painful to the dank-weakened eye.  “Christ’s cross.”  But sun besides, there’s a mild touch of breeze about the air that seems pleasant and refreshing.  Quelling the troubles below, as it were.
            I saunter, but then there’s nowhere quite to go in town when a body wants to be alone.  I turn toward the hills, past First Church and the mounds of earth in the yard.  Mounds of flesh, sizable cups in the well.  Or maybe mere thimbles.  It’s beyond me to speculate at present.  Looking onward, the ancient shaggy Scarsdales hump along the sky’s bottom edge, a sort of earthen corrugate cut out.  Two silky plumes of smoke trickle upwards, mining camps in the hills’ midst.  No doubt still reeking of the morning’s bacon and saltpork and burnt coffee and distant shit.
            I walk along and off the dusty trail, hoofing it down a grassy knoll.  To someplace secluded and lonesome and scrubby-green.  Mayhap to laze about the junipers and sage and withered pines and ponder, or even to thoughtlessly gaze at the unending skies above.  In either case, to mull alone for a spell.  To lie upon Mother Earth and under our most distant relative, the Sun.  Among birds and mule deer and dozy bugs, to stretch out and reflect – lest we forget.  Because Ned’s world won’t forget where he’s got, and a hard rain’s bound to fall after him.
            I sometimes wish I could just up and ride away with the sun, to travel on like the unending day and ceaseless night.  But then, I don’t much like horses.  Sarta dee, sarta dum  I find an inviting little spot overlooking the south plain and drop down in a grassy patch.  Tossing aside my hat and cradling head in hands I watch the azure skies above, clear and pure as a church pane.  Lazy clouds off to the east, drifting southward to Mexico, or the Gulf.  Hard to say for sure.
            Peaceful repose, badly needed serenity.  Lest we – and with a mighty mid-morning yawn – string ourselves up ado over nothing.  I close my eyes and it feels good, real good.  I can feel the breeze picking up, gusting the soft and pleasant scents of fresh sage to my nostrils.  Warm sun on my face, rather quickly I find myself drifting off…

*          *     is this the end? find out in our next installment     *          *

28 September 2011

"The Roughest Farewell" pt. II


            Grim dusk yawns upon us, the darkness of the sky pushing away the sun as another day meets its end.  Or at least, as another day in Skokie Pines ends.  I’ve been told the sun moves along, shining upon other lands west of us and far beyond and around until it crops up again in the east the morning next.  There really are no days, by that logic.  More like one endless day and an endless night, skulking about in an unending push and chase around our fair little firmament.
            The whole township is gathered in a great omega, facing myself, Angus, and a whimpering Ned between at the nadir of this celestial congregation on the steps of First Church.  Cousin Horace stands ahead, enrobed in the full regalia of his high office.  He prays upon this ritual in the old tongue, our denuded townsfolk bowed down over Mother Earth and saying their piece in response.  I say nothing.  I am the instrument of the body, nothing more.
            Ned is sniveling quietly, mouth agape and eyes a-popping at these proceedings.  “Easy on,” I whisper to him.  “Mussn’t heap further sacrilege upon your crimes.  Be worse if’n you do.”
            “Sheriff, this is madness,” he starts saying, and I’ve got to jerk him quiet by the collar.  Ned whispers on, “I mean, this is madness.  How can such heathenry exist in our day and age?”  And he looks at me imploringly for an answer, manacled and sweaty-browed.
            “Supposed to help the crops,” I shrug, thinking of the reasons laid down by the forefathers and yon.  “Harvest your spiritual energy for the township, in a manner of speaking.  Anyway, you shouldn’t’ve done what you did.” 
            “Hell’s bells, Sheriff… you can’t let them do this.  You’re a justice of the peace!”
            “Quit raising your voice during the ritual, dammit.”  I tap the tin pentangle pinned to my vest.  “And that’s your world, not ours.  Mine is a local office.  Anyway, it’s more or less like a hanging in other parts.  Only more meaningful.  You aren’t just dying… consider yourself becoming part of something bigger.”  Just tipping the earthen cup into the greater well, fluid and free and all-enveloping.  So we say.  It’s all one big communion by the endless day’s close.  But my counsel doesn’t comfort our prisoner any.  He mutters and shakes a right mess, I dare say beginning to go faint and fluttery as Horace ends the dedication.
            Arms upraised in a theatrical gesture, Our Horace addresses the very cosmos.  “We are now gathered before the First Church of the Aeon, to dedicate the life of an erstwhile unworthy individual – an outsider – guilty of trespassing upon the collected wills of our humble people of Skokie Pines.  Seni peikoks.  Have you anything to say before the bonding ritual is carried out, Brother Nedward Norris?”
            Angus gives Ned a shake, but it’s no good; Nedward is unresponsive.
            “Very well,” Horace continues.  “Place him in the well.”  Our cue, Angus and I drag Ned forward as the drums begin tattooing their primal thunder and the people become animated, exuberant.  Betsie locks each arm around the necks of her neighbors as they go to ground, while Anna Weebleman begins her siren song that sends shivers down my spine.  Many’s the night I awake from the sound of those drums, and that song.  Many a weary pipe I smoke ‘til our resumption of the dawn.
            Suddenly Ned leaps to life, the torso trying to tear itself from its very arms.  “Nooo!!  Nooooooo!!!”  Angus bats him in the eye with an elbow, but he rolls right with it as we drag him onward towards the center.  “You people are monsters!!  Pigs!  To Hell with the lot of you!!”
            “My my, but he’s a feisty one!” Angus squeals, baring his ugly chompers in a donkey bray.  The thundering drums pound on, a downpour upon my ears as we reach the hole.  With some pushing and kicking we get Ned’s legs in and push him down, him screaming and biting and vacillating as Angus begins pushing in the dusty red soil.  I’ve got to keep his shoulders pressed down, a hard feat considering.  Horace looms above us with outstretched hands and an upturned chin, chanting loudly away-
Mares away a fodder’s chum
Da prey ta bon num spake
In ta da erith bon num hest
Ayardi nigh da leaf.
            Sarta dee, sarta dum comes the refrain from all sides and I feel as though my very bones will jump free of my body, the pressure on my head explode in a shot of red.  Sarta dee sarta dum, sarta dee sarta dum and on and on.  Finally Angus presses the earth over Ned’s shoulders and I release them, rising to help pack it in with my spurless boot.
"GOD!!" Ned wails.
            “GOD!!” Ned wails.  “Oh Jesus Christ, Our Father who art in Heaven,” and so on, a parrying chant of his own against so many unburied others.  Horace hands me the burlap sack with the seventeen stars and I crouch down.
            “Sorry Neddy, sorry you have to experience this roughest of farewells.”  With a muffled shout the bag is placed over his head and I step away.  The drums, the thundering drums and Our Horace rising upon their rhythm with the wildest of ululations.  The mob goes mad.  Sarta dee!  Sarta dum!  They rise from their throng with stones held high overhead as the last ray of sun disappears behind the westward horizon.  All that’s left to us is darkness, darkness and a couple sundry stars as a kind of justice rains down.

*          *          *     to be continued yet     *          *          *

"The Roughest Farewell"


            “Sweet Je-zus, Sheriff!  Can’t you,” and here the wormy little profligate falls into a mumbling bit of whimper.  “Can’t you just flog me, send me off and all?  I won’t come back!”
            Miserable little weed.
            “Nah, Ned, you won’t be coming back any time soon,” I tells him matter o’ fact like, rummaging through the chest o’ drawers next to the gun cabby.  “I do declare-” and I pause to relight my pipe as my thoughts hurry about the office.  Where, o where, have our black hoods gone….  They’re normally kept in the second drawer, next to the manacles.
            It’s hard to think, what with Ned yammering on from the town cell.  Not really a cell even, more an elaborate cattle pen hemmed with barbed wire and glass fragments.  Iron bars don’t grow on trees in Skokie Pines.  He stands as close to the slats as he can, pleading for his useless life with such gibbering despair.
            “Gawd- I’ll fly right off, Sheriff, it doesn’t haftabethiswayouknowIdon’t- deservetodielikethat please Sheriff, pleASE!!!”  Bawling and slobbering and snotting on, shaking like a leaf in an autumn breeze. 
            I head for the door.  “No need to shout, Ned, keep your pants on.  I’m over to Betsie’s, see if she can fix you up a proper hood and all.”  And I look back, a grin on my face.  “Wouldn’t want the townfolk have to watch your perfidious mug die, right-right?”  And I shut the door as he begins a-wailing again.
            It’s a beautiful day out the day, bright enough to blind a fella.  Course, the office doesn’t have any windows.  Very stoutly built, if simply so.  Angus idles in a rocker on the porch, hat pushed over his eyes.  “Lotsa noise he’s making in there, Sheriff.  Want me to shut’m up?”  And he gives one of those sour rotten smiles Angus and his braars are known throughout the county for.  Teeth’re the first to go in that fam.
'...more an elaborate cattle pen...'
            “Nah, none too necessary.  Gorgeous day out, though!  My word, I’m nigh on blinded by it.”  Angus hums assent and lifts his brim a bit with a thumb.  He makes another ghastly smile and lowers the hat back as he settles into his nap.  “Keep up the good work, hoss.”
            I walk on, boots scuffling along the rough dusty stretch of road that cuts through town.  Hard on the heels mostly, but a gluey morass at the first sign of rain.  Old Milo once suggested we lay down some broken stones from the mining op uphill.  A grand idea, if anyone wanted to shift them down here.  I think Milo really just wanted the township to pay him something extra, proposing it in that roundabout way of his.  In any case, it in't as though it comes as any detriment to the regular pace of things.  Old Skokie is a small sort of place, eleven buildings thrown up at the foot of the Scarsdales and the little mines and paltry claims that operate there.  
            I saunter across to Weebleman’s, a sort of one-stop for dry goods and much-about everything.  Uncle Weeb is dead now, stuck in the dusty ground behind First Church.  The store lives on via my brother Paul and his wife Betsie, formerly our Weeb’s eldest.  Course, Betsie’s sort of the family facet.  A harbringer, our stagecoach regular Emmitt once called her.  She’s outlived three husbands now; two of our cousins and another of my brothers, Geoff.  Now facets themselves behind the First Church.
            I push open the only screen door in town and step inside to the murky cool of the shop.  “Mornin’ Spur,” Betsie pipes up from behind the far counter.  That’s me by the way, Spur; called so because I don’t wear spurs, on account of my piles.  Horses and I aren’t the best of friends, let’s say.  “Ned still due for dusk?”
            “Yup, I do believe he is.  Course, do you think you can fix up a hood for him before then?  Can’t seem to find any in the office.”
            “Hrmmm,” she thinks audibly back in the coquettish, playful sort of way she does.  Everybody has a way, I suppose.  But she scrunches her face and puts a finger on those lips, amber eyes upturned off and away presumably finding the answer somewhere among the pressed tin ceiling tiles.  “You know, I think I can solve that problem right now.  We could use one of these barley bags instead.”
            She rummages one out from a pile of cloths and hands it to me, smelling of gal-musk and sassafras.  I roll the bag around in my hands; seems a proper fit for a head.  We can affix the appropriate stars and signs later.  “I dare say you’re a clever devil, Miss Betsie.  What might the township owe for this generosity of yourn?”
            She pulls the pipe from my teeth.  “Paul is away yet, 'til sometime later this afternoon.  I don’t suppose the township could part with a sheriff, at least for a little bit?”  And I hafta say, there’s nothing like a little anarchy now and then to make a community stronger.

*          *          *     to be continued     *          *          *

26 September 2011

A Bit of a Spit-take

So my weekend was fairly low-key:  a couple of beers over a sour stomach, a bit of online training, and a touch of rain that finally ushered out the dismally humid air that’s made sleeping a misadventure.  Oh, and my air mattress has a mysterious puncture somewhere.  My weekend was low-key, how was yours?
Because as I was going about for a piss and a water late last night I happened to check out my usual spots, the BBC and colleague Adam Luebke’s blog Dear Dirty America.  What the hell?!  Clearly all weekends have not been created equal, as New York’s Union Square has been occupied by a large-scale protest; a sit-down surrounded by a police cordon now eight days later.  80 people have been arrested so far, several maced, others assaulted by white-collared cops over the weekend.
Like a good day in Damascus, one might be so inclined to say.  Support rallies are likewise cropping up nationally, lacking perhaps the rough-and-tumble of the original if not the spirit.   For example, the occupation of City Hall in Los Angeles and proposed financial district rallies in London and Madrid. 
And yet… I’m looking through the major news outlets and not seeing anything on these stories!  Not as headliners, not even as supplemental blurbs on the crawl!  And CNN has the balls to front a piece called Why Our Government is Broken, the irony being that the 9-5 set (and their support subset of 24/7 part-timers) are all controlled by the same powers that be.  The news (clearly), the politicians (as evidenced in this tremendous if not quite surprising story), the tax system, the police, and the economy.  Everything funneling back to one place, fittingly enough the big board at the NYSE currently being protested.
I suppose I could see the BBC not running anything on the story; Europe and the rest of the world has been undergoing its own lock-step riot clashes for months.  But that none of our major venues would be covering this story on the front page (save MSNBC, whose video link of police brutality comes smaller than their story NYPD Chief: We Can Take Down a Plane if Necessary) is rather telling, in one of those vague everything-makes-sense-now sort of conspiracy theories.
Because it’s a difficult, hazardous knot to untangle and sort through, this ‘powers that be’ dilemma.  People are worried about a corporatocracy, and that’s well and good when presidential candidates come out and say ‘corporations are people.’  And people are upset by the tightly-knit connection between the professional classes, the interchangeability of lawyers, businessmen, and politicians and their unaccountable unanimity towards making America safe for big business.  Again though, broad strokes of the brush I’m trying to paint with; broad generalizations in an attempt to put a face to a macro-level situation.
I’m going to mull this one out, but my first reaction is to blame ‘money’ in its blandest cultural meaning.  Why are these protests happening now and not ten (or even four) years ago?  Because everybody loves money and the things that at least make it feel like one has it (a Swatch-watch grab bag of affordable and somewhat disposable luxury items that everybody must have); when the crunch came and as the mass majority begins to finally feel the pinch (like shrunken capillaries in the vascular system of our market economy) they get upset.  Little knowing or caring before what was going on so long as the bread and circuses kept coming. 
That's right, America.
They've watched every Christmas special ever.
            But the days of cheap crap are behind us, America.  Like it or no, we’re being matched and in many ways outpaced by scrappier economies, by peoples we’ve long ridiculed or else ‘respected for being so in-touch’ with et al (i.e. being quaint) like the Russians and the Chinese, Brazil and to a lesser extent India.  They’ve had to watch our crap 90s movies where even every broken family still lived in a sort of suburban mansion, see our vomitous pop personalities and sit through blurbs decrying America’s growing obesity problem; seen, worked, and dammit want the lot of it.  We’d set an improbable standard of living for ourselves, are losing it, and now (to boot) the rest of the world wants the same.

            The waters of this situation run deep, billions of folk swept along by interconnected currents and events.  Much grander than any one op-ed can properly cover.  More to come…  

23 September 2011

A New New Hedonism

Open your mind.  Spare no chances, risk every sensibility, lay to one side every moral notion and erstwhile prejudice.  Lord Henry sinking billiard balls from across a green felted table as the Ludwig Van thunders on overhead.  Here comes Johnny Yen again, being a living breathing thing in an endless search for that all too tangible lust for life.  Joie de vivre, it’s been called.  A new hedonism, ages ago by a very Oscar Wilde.

Open your mind.  Picture a world of nothing proscribed, nothing withheld from the fingers’ grasp.  A world filled with people quite likewise living-breathing and loosed from the bounds of decency, of abrasive delusion and godly conduct.  Godliness- the olden gods were essentially as human as the teller; the removal of such to a taintless One is a removal of the divine from humanity.  A separation of the standard from the attainable.

Open your mind and dig deep.  Think of wants and pleasures and dreams, of fears and hates and discomforts.  Humanity in all its colours, a Technicolor yawn to the cosmos of experience.  Needs.  Needs to live:  of nourishment, of reprieve from the overpowering elements.  Man is not made for defeat; the resilience of the human spirit, of the human body.  Man is Human is Woman, all is Self and likewise selfish.  A world filled with people likewise selfish and feeling and without bound.

Open your mind to its limits.  The limit of the mind is the imagination, of the body is itself and the world about it.  The goals one sets to achieve divided by its ability to succeed; success is beholden to reality, but measured by one’s interpretation of events.  All interpretations are selfish, relative to the Self.  A world filled with people interpreting events and forging futures based on the presents they portend.

Open your mind to the world, a world filled with individual living-breathing Selves.  People with lives and lusts and fears, with inescapable needs and overpowering desires.  Selves intersect in places, egos find solace in kindred souls.  Egos construct mighty edifices with their kindred souls from which to protect and engorge themselves.  Granfalloonery.  Other souls are projections of the Self, and all projections are interpretations.  Repeat and think.  Dig deep into this watery well and think.

Open your mind to what makes you happy.  (What is it?  Whom does it affect?)  Do as thou wilt and pursue that end.  If it batters the ends of others society will crush you, such is the nature of society.  Aim lower, reach for the pleasures attainable to your fingers’ grasp.  Simple pleasures, with transparent ends.  And remember the Golden Rule:  love makes you fat.

Open your mind to your discomforts.  Embrace them now and then, and seek them out.  Lose yourself in them and think deeply.  (Were they so bad, and why?)  Think back to your reasoning; reasoning is an interpretation.  Fuck it.  Let loose and remember the Golden Rule:  what’s good for the Goose doesn’t necessarily make a Gander.

Open your mind.  Now don’t.  Embrace the Self, propel the Ego into untold realms.  Probe what makes you great, because everybody is great (even in humility).  What makes your Self greater?  Chase it.  Hone and embrace it.  Become the person your Ego sees.  It won’t be hard; the person you are is a reflection of a projection of the Self.  What is a projection?  Embrace it and think.

Now don’t, and do as thou wilt.

22 September 2011

“Chewed Up and Spat Back By the Yawning Gods Over Portland”

"Mind the minors, plea-uzzzh!"
Interminable deluge of bacchanal delights as Binksie and myself tut-tut-tuttle our way pedestrially along the high-and-mighty Grand Avenue.  Enjoying the liquid splendor from humble brown paper parcels tucked into unseasonal jackets as we amble along peaceably, exulting in God and Mother Earth and Cthulhu all.
            “Blessed Double Dog Dare debauches, dearest brother Binks!” I exclaim loudly, arm slung around his bulky stumbling shoulder.
            “All too right, most honorable Hoff,” he chides along in good-natured fashion, taking a pronounced tipple from his parceled bottle.  “But-” and he lowers his voice a bit, ever mindful of the nosey ear of the peeping tommy eyes of our general pop.  “But where’re we off to now?  I thought we were bringing the stuff up to King.  We’re headed south.”
            “Right you are, old boy,” I tell him amicably.  And drawing him aside down a knock-turn little backstreet, add in a whisper, “Can’t be too careful, fuzz about and all.  We’ll meander our way as best we can up the byways and side-alleys.”  Because a half-pound of meth is a hell of a thing to carry, plastic-wrapped and duct-taped and sagging weightily within the jacket pocket as it does.  Weighing years’ and yonks’ and lifetimes’ worth of bar-biting brutality, a menstruating mother-down cacophony of malice for honest lot like ourselves.
            But it makes for a troubleless sort of venture, dark and fragrant garden plots overflowing onto crumbling sidewalks and a sky full of stars, though for the most part unseen to the urban eye.  Cool air, distant train… the sort of night such things were made for.  “Because what’s money anyway?” I accidentally ask aloud.
            “An illusion!” Binks pipes in, never missing a beat.  “A reflection of the means of production meant to hamper the proletariat.”  He doesn’t stop with the jargon, “Money is the root of all evil, the great oppressor.  The death of mirth, the sucker of life, the whore of-” and with a mighty – whooph! – Binks stumbles short as I elbow him sharply beneath the ribs.
            “I think I hear something,” I warn him, hearing only the refreshing sounds of nocturnal silence.  An ode to my personal joy, sipping on a waning bottle of cab-sav beneath this celestial bouquet of ours.  “Let us continue on in silence, and take advantage of our surprising element.”  He whispers agreement and we saunter on.  Waning moonlit shadow puppets of monstrous oaks, slender alders.  Fig trees and maples and the occasional elm.  Quietly shifting in the breeze, scarcely heard above the odd hum of a latter-season air condition system or the buzzing power units strung overhead.
            “Would that it would all stop,” I whisper, mostly to myself.  A world without its Electric Giant, a world of worthy equals parleying about after life’s necessities.  Neither trapped nor ensnared by fantasy or whimsy, living for the now, that terrible and awesome nemesis to the future and repressor of our glories past.  Dwelling for the second-by-tick-tock-second, as myself and Binksie here on this darkened avenue.
            “I thought we were walking in silence,” Binks mutters reprovingly, and I remember our pact.  So we walk on in silence, past Weidler and Schuyler and Tillamook- to can’t quite say where, gentleman’s agreements and so forth.  But after a bit of strolling back and forth we finally find the place, an unlit white-sided house hemmed with juniper bushes. 
Ditching our bottles in the gutter we begin our approach up the well-kept walk, when a wild hair grips me.  I grapple Binks’ shoulder.  “What if we awayed with the thing?” I ask him, deadly serious.  More’n a pop for a puff, couple thou lining the pockets minus the odd splurge.  “Hell, we could make off for California.  Buy a plot and start a farm, breed rabbits.”
“What is this, Steinbeck?” Binks spits, face flushed.  “We’ll get nobbled.  These guys’re animals.  Let’s just dump this stuff off and get gone.”
“Sage advice,” I say to my spineless colleague.  But it’s true nonetheless; best to get this burden away and disappear with the dawn.  Besides, what’s money?  We’ll still fork in a few hundred for the trouble.  “After you,” I say, and again the thought creeps up.  Run.  Disappear into the night and head south.  Or hell, north!  Canada!  Health care and Molson’s and poutine and foreign women.
But Binks is already buzzing the bell and the front door swings open, briefly basking the lawn in a column of white light before the pair of us are leeched inside from the darkness without.  The doorman is a big bloke, shaved head and pierced face with enormous empty eyes, like the discs of a ceiling lamp.  Very imposing.  “Goat the stuph?” he asks us in an indeterminate drawl.  I nod, the gether uncomfortable by the size of our host and sudden closeness in-of-doors we find ourselves in.
The Bulk ushers Binks and myself into the living room as I drag out the bindle of mealy white powder from my pocket.  But I nearly drop the bag as I find ourselves surrounded by luminous blue fish tanks on every side.  Stacks of them, gallons and gallons of salt and fresh tanks filled with delicate, multi-colored fish and sea creatures.  “Jesus me,” I exclaim breathlessly.  It’s less like being at the aquarium than a well-stocked pet shop, same unnatural humidity and all.  Very dank.
“You got the stuff?” asks a voice from the hall, and in comes who I take to be the fish-fiend.  Sluggish looking fella with a mop of ruddy blonde hair and acne pocks about his face, looking a bit groggy and stoned for the wear.  “You got it?” he reiterates testily, and I can’t say I care for the way he’s looking down the nose at us.
I hand over the bag, which he gives a cursory glance to before chucking it across to the Bulk by the door.  I wait expectantly, for bills or something.  Cigarettes, wine, anything at this point; I’m starting to get the creeps from this inordinate number of steamy fish tanks.  “Well, if you’ve got our money…” I begin, and the Slug sort of frowns the more deeply.
“Your money?” he asks wearily.  “Your money?  That’s Marestal’s problem.  He’s got your drinking money, not me.”
“Look, Fish Tank,” I start to tell him, torn between a life-ending veil of red and a self-saving interest of getting the hell out.  I start to say, but the Bulk takes a step forward and Binks loses what little pigment he’s got and steps a ways back.  “Look man,” I begin again, lightening my tone.  “Marestal said you’d pay us on delivery. Contractual and all that.”
“Fuck you,” the Slug tells me curtly.  And I wanna brain the churlish monkey, take a bottle and shove it right up his pasty middle-class asshole.  But I haven’t the bottle, and then the Bulk has this look of enraged disgust on his flattened face.
“I don’t think this is dust,” he says to Slug, who yawns angrily at the pair of us.
“Oh?” he purrs, and again I’m wanting out.  Fucking Marestal.  Talk about shoving bottles…  What’s money, anyway?  Bit of fluff and mirrors, light dancing offa the silver platter at the end, little man behind the curtain.  Nothing worth losing the thumbs over, nothing worth getting a nostril split for.  “Let me see that,” and the Bulk forks over the bag and idles taut in front of the exit.  I’m shitting bricks myself, though not quite going the Binksie route with his audible whispers of harried Hail Mary’s, still yet the spineless idolater. 
“Hnmmm,” Slug murmurs.  “No-” and he looks at the pair of us with a positively disdainful hate.  “No, I think this is best taken up with Marestal.  It’s wrapped too well to have anything to do with you two.”  And a burden was altogether dropped, I suppose.  Everything happens so fast:  Binks sighs a praise of relief, Bulk relaxes from the doorframe uneasily, my anus unpuckers as the body realizes it has months yet to go on.  Hunky-dory goodness abounds in the karmic universe, save one altogether nasty chap named Marestal foolishly asleep on the south end of town.  Binks and Bulk and my anus, all harmoniously at ease and relieved.
Then the Slug goes on about no paydays in bum town, or paper rain on a bum parade- I don’t know.  But I hit the plump cocksucker in his pursed mouth as he’s mmm-ing out the um in bum.  Think I split a knuckle in the ensuing bedlam, claptrap fat faggot falling backwards into a toppling tank of tetras, crash-smash double splash in a bacchanal deluge of blood and water as he takes a crimson tumble onto broken glass fragments.  My right fist flaring screaming in a red rocket of flame I biff the bulky bouncer in the eye with my left as I’m pushing past for the door.  He’s stunned, but not particularly worse for the wear.  I’m thinking best make for the nearest dumpster or storm drain for a disappearing act. 
Binks – goddamn trusty Binks – is putting a boot in to the Slug as I’m rounding the corner, disappearing from view.  “Jesus, Hoff!” he’s shouting.  “Jesus, Hoff, what’d you do!?” as he stamp-stamp-stamples down upon the fallen drug peddler fish-fiend lying amid flopping dying neon tetras.  I’m one-two-three out the door and back into the dry cool air of the Portland night, urban dim-star sky yawning on above me.  With preservation on my mind, a spring in my step, blood oozing from my crippled right and eyes darting for the nearest knock-turn backstreet.  Trees quietly shifting in the impotent breeze, scarcely heard amid the shouts and muffled scuffle from within the white-sided juniper-hemmed house in King.