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.

21 September 2011

Training Day

            Now numbered among the rising ranks of America’s underemployed (up from the ashes of being un-such, as it were), I find myself jumping through an unpaid eleven-hour hoop of online training that my imminent employment hinges on.  The road ahead is a daunting, joyless sort of one; the employee manual is a goopy honeysuckle nod to corporate policy, to nameless and excruciating servility unto the appetites of a populace largely living on the quick.
            A few things come to my embittered mind as I indifferently peruse the customer handling policies.  Upselling orders or ‘suggestive selling’, obfuscating values, and shuffling patrons back out the door as quickly as possible:  a policy blending the gloss of a Pudong silk marketeer with all the seamy charm of a Solwezi black market bazaar, tinged with the murky grey edges of a con about it.  It’s really little wonder that the procedure regarding all and every confrontation or complaint is to bend over backwards and right oneself in a spineless kowtow, to shower the offended customer with saccharine and coupons and promises.  Caught with the second ace of spades in a game of Three-card Monte, what can one do but slither appropriately away?
            And that’s if the complaint is justified.  By and large I’ve seen the Platinum Rule – that ethos of the infallible customer – to be a hearty jest at reality, if that at best.  The prejudice of my experience indicates that most normal people don’t complain, even when posed with the most unforgivable of trivial inconveniences.  Most don’t even remember the slight when they return, week or the day next.  It comes down to those rare few who pump their egos and desperately earn their bread raising hell at various establishments, who would sooner crucify the manager and flog the staff than leave without a free handout or special discount.  It’s economic extortion, really.
            Extorting the con-man, devil and Daniel Webster like.  Black on black in a world created by the piecemeal dissolution and outsourcing of American industry and the foundation of this fatuous service economy.  Held at the mercy of minimum wage, right-to-work, bottom-line troglodytes and ends-damn-the-means profit margins.  Two jobs, first-strike termination, overcrowded prisons, the undermining and privatization of federal services, and rampant personal debt.  A system taxed upon by the shameless profit-siphoning of corporate egomaniacs and the unstable three-legged race against regulation for that next questionable market.  All bricks in that merry old wall some people like to call Capitalism.  Really it's a noxious slur to the notion, if ever there was; it’s less a system than a case of bad management and systemic misuse, of short-sighted opportunism and hypocritical bootstrapped indifference.
            Once I’d started an article project for Arbor Day entitled “So You Love The Environment,” subtitled Then You’re Already Doing… with a list of things – some surprising, some not so much; the article was scrapped after all – every green-blooded child of the soil should be doing/eschewing.  One of these bullets was to never, never eat in a restaurant again.  The sheer waste churned out on a daily basis by these establishments borders the remarkable and jumps into the tragic.  Some are better than others of course, but chains and fast-food franchises are the worst.  Ironically, a large dose of waste is due to following health code guidelines; those paper towels and endless latex-free gloves go someplace, invariably to the dumpster at day’s end. 
Likewise, used/spoilt food (which I’m certainly not going to argue needs to be served anyway) and the considerable amounts of water needed to maintain even the smallest commercial kitchen are a consideration.  It was hard to even find a figure showing the average water consumption; for a while the best answer I could find was really a poorly written yet rather telling non-answer.  Could it be that restauranting is America’s latest in a long slew of dirty little secrets, as had been the rampant use of DDT and other pesticides some fifty years ago? [i]
Not that the industry hasn’t felt its share of arrows in the past decade, from the groundbreaking documentary Supersize Me to an apparently rising anti-restaurant movement as the price of nigh-on everything rises.  Is it so hard to cook a meal for oneself, I ask?  My roommate certainly seems to think so.  But I dunno.  Is it so wrong to live and work and look about in this world of ours and ask the immortal question, “Why”?  If nothing else, have the decency to pay a bloke for hours served… own-time online training, my ass!

[i] A problem that of course has since been solved.  Really though, check out Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring at your local library the next opp you get.

18 September 2011

"Night Watch"

“Yeah, yeah.  G’night, you swine,” I say with a laugh as I head down the decrepit stairwell and the apartment door clicks shut and locks behind me.  Down the stairs past naked pipes and obsolescent wall switches, thinking about the past day or so; a blessed waste, of corn dogs and pizza and beer, of Get Carter and discussing Baudrillard and smoking Japanese cigarettes outside in the rain.  Of everything and nothing in particular, another blessed waste of a day.
Tick-tock, tick-tock though.  Not many days on the calendar yet, and no word about any of the applications I’ve sent out.  Money dwindling, ulcers germinating, headaches beginning.  As I push through the double lobby doors and step out onto the dark and moistened pavement I’m wondering what the future may yet hold.  An uncertain thing at best most any of the time, one might say.  Ever the thing to be feared, trod towards with a mindful step and all.
Like the bus stop.  It’s a couple blocks’ walk through an admittedly chancy sort of neighborhood, parade grounds for the lost and the homeless.  Walking along mostly darkened streets, the occasional abstract car speeding along to home or to another bar someplace.  Odd man perched against a doorframe, smoking a cigarette.  I’m walking with a sobered step and a wary set of eyes now, absorbed less in the thoughts of the day than the shadows of the present. 
It reminds me of any other number of lonesome nighttime streets I’ve sauntered.  Solwezi back-alleys and Whitehorse thoroughfares, the Old Town nocturnal markets and that Kapiri motto:  never, ever be in Kapiri after dark.  Drifting along in the shadows, thinking of one’s fellow man; sizing up and discounting and ever moving forward towards one’s destination.  Then the empty victory at the night’s end, arriving safe and realizing with weary relief you’ve expected nothing but shit from the great human parcel.  And yet.
Yet as I jay across an empty red-lit street corner to avoid the potbellied shadow coming up the way, as I cut across the parking lot and scrutinize the cars for signs of life; I wonder why not sacrifice a bit of good will for a tisch bit of safety?  One never knows, come night.  Besides, it’s not like I’m packing, ready to fire off shots at the first shadow or anything.  I just like to know when I’m best into a run.
Which is partly why (reaching my stop, checking the schedule and seeing I’ve got ten minutes yet) I don’t really ‘fun-run’ for exercise.  I’ll walk miles, certainly.  But running… save for sport, there’s no real reason for it short of life-and-limb.  Besides which, I dislike wearing shorts in public.  It propels me back into grade school, short pants and crispy boogers and utter helplessness.
Ten minutes to wait, if the bus is on schedule.  That it usually is makes me wonder about the city government, of latter-day fascism and bloated Rotarians swinging upside-down from unfinished gas stations.  More crucially, I’m standing about in the darkest center of the block on the outskirts of a parking lot for the next tiddly ten minutes.  There’s a bit of foot traffic about, and I’m wondering about each and every that heads by, off, and across.  Occasional couples, the odd group of young people, the single men and double chums and nuclear families.
A woman in a rather fetching brown wool topcoat crosses at the corner, walking on in a visibly hurried fashion.  Do I walk like that?  Or do I walk like the hooded sweatshirt scuttling across the opposite side of the street as he approaches, hands buried in oversized front pocket and head down?  A city of people afraid of the dark, of each other.  Even young-black-male, inadvertently sending chills up my spine as he approaches with his textbooks in hand.  Walking that same quick gait as everybody, probably more wary of me perched in the darkened center of the block than I should be of he.  
And then when he approaches the fear is less a one of defense than of standing about all rigid and churlish, of the body language being overtly stand-offish.  I try and stand a bit easier and hope I’m not coming across the wrong way, but it’s a no-win in a game nobody’s even keeping score at; everyone’s on the way home.  He passes and I breathe easy, all overactive amygdala and empty phantasms.  I check my phone:  I’ve five minutes yet to wait.
But I suppose the best mugging duo would be a father-son combination, or mother-son; parent-child, if one’s to be truly fair about it.  Something sort of Lock Stock, Big-Chris-and-son kind of like.  Nobody expects (or at least, I don’t) trouble from a person with their kid in tow, save the occasional ticket handler, cashier, local ombudsperson; I suppose anybody who doesn’t care for youthful antics and doting parentage might bristle a bit.  Never mind.
But really (I ask myself as the bus appears at the end of the street) who mugs people these days?  It seems almost fictional, a cliché from 70s and 80s films more than real life.  Like carjackings.  Or terrorist plots.  Arson and electric fires, cancer, bankruptcy, and death.  Bad things never happen to anybody I’m thinking as I rummage through my pockets, hoping I’ve got the exact change.  The bus pulls up and hisses to a halt, doors pishing open brightly against the drizzled darkness.  Once we get to where we’re headed, bad things never happen to anybody.  Ourselves especially.

16 September 2011

The Graphic Analyst In Me Cometh

      So my good friend Adam Luebke (creator of the gonzo-alarmist blog Dear Dirty America) shared with me an article on wired.com exposing recent instructional material used by FBI counter-terrorism trainers identifying Islam and its adherents as inherently violent.  It makes for several pages of interesting (and somewhat appalling) reading, so be sure to check it out!
      However, as I was reading through the sordid account of home-spun extremists within the Bureau using their positions to spread slanderous generalizations, an example graph made the old political science student in me wince.

      Yes, this graph makes no analytical sense.  I see an x-axis timeline, I see a y-axis 'violence quotient', I see stars and moons and pots of gold; what I fail to see (and please correct me if I'm wrong) is anything actually being quantified.  The graphic indicates that Islam reached a certain level of violence and (like a pituitary-deficient teenager) ceased to develop beyond that point.  Ignoring a slew of historical counterexamples of religious violence that persists to this day and the misleading time scale, and the apparent failure to define what 'pious and devout' indicate, there's really no scale or sense of proportion.  It's a badly-made graph.
      And one of the things I've learned from Statistics 101 (and life, subsequently) is that a bad graph tends to indicate an underlying bad logic.  Whenever a person needs to twist the truth, skew the numbers (or avoid using any altogether), or outright lie to sell a point, the point's very validity comes into question.  Which makes this a perfect graph for the curriculum.  It's a bad math that helps quantify the logic involved, the egregious misinterpretation of one of the world's major faiths that (as the wired article plainly states) serves no other purpose than to play into the philosophical ends of Al Qaeda.  Not to be alarmist about it, of course.  But I do agree that we (collectively, via our various agencies) get nothing done by building such distinctions.

15 September 2011

Monumentally Mixed Feelings

So another day in the news, sipping on an afternoon cuppa while waiting for a job interview later on.  Reading the Deutsche Welle (don't we all?) I come across an article (this article) about a new memorial being built in Berlin, honoring Georg Elser. 
In 1939 Herr Elser attempted to assassinate Hitler with a homemade bomb; that he failed was tragic enough.  He was afterwards tortured and kept in solitary confinement until the waning days of the Reich, when Hitler (a man indefinitely renowned for harboring grudges) personally ordered his execution.  He was shot in Dachau, 9 April of 1945.
            Actually, I remember the story of Elser from John Toland’s wonderful book, The Last Hundred Days, a collection of accounts from folk (und volk) large and small woven into a tale of the last hundred days of European conflict.  It’s an enormous read, a must for any historiphiles out there.  But I had to do a bit of a refresh on the story of this man, turning to the ever-available Wikipedia to clue me in.
            Because, much as I feel the Nazi regime was one of humanity’s many travesties against itself (every century, it seems, has an unsettling number of these; read Leopold’s Ghost for an account of a genocide that rivals the Holocaust in scale, fuelled by the ivory trade and Big Rubber) I find myself questioning whether Elser deserves such high public honors.  Actually, it would be another of many such honors; streets are named after him, and there are already several monuments to his actions around Germany.
            Firstly, I think the attack itself is less-than commendable.  A rudimentary bomb in a public gathering, eight people killed and many injured, Hitler not among them.  I couldn’t say with any certainty if those assembled were members of the NDSAP, well-wishers, members of the press, soldiers, voters, or other sorts of civilians.  In contrast, Stauffenberg’s 20 July plot found Hitler in the midst of purely military men.  I’m not sure how I feel about that either (I’m sort of anti-bomb, if that makes sense; collateral damage irks me) but somehow it feels less a shade of grey.  Couple this with wiki-rumor that Elser may have been another Van Der Lubbe style patsy, which Nazi officials had already proven they were comfortable employing/discarding, and you’ve got yourself a tricky dilemma.
            How different is it than any number of bombings currently vilified by our press (likewise, by society in general)?  Once you remove Hitler from the equation, it simply isn’t.  Actually, as an element in any right-or-wrong question, I’d say the presence of Hitler rivals the efficacy of saving children.  He’s the end-all justification, the apropos metaphor for anybody one does not care for philosophically.  So I think Elser is more a product of Hitler hype than a noteworthy individual on the path for peaceful coexistence.  He’s another Oswald, another (whoever the bomber that killed Bhutto was), essentially.  Need we glorify lone-wolf devil-may-care extremism?
            Simply because it was directed at Hitler does not further the cause of peace, nor I feel does it further the memory of those who perished and suffered during the Holocaust.  Simply put, it adds nothing to the human tapestry.

13 September 2011

Bringing Lunda to the World (albeit Chovu-Chovu)

      Halloa, fantabulous blogsters!  For those of you who don't know me personally, I once was a youthful health volunteer in Zambia for the Peace Corps.  Stationed up in the Lumwana East area of Northwest Province, where the language Lunda was king (actually, sharing the throne with Kikaonde).  I was obliged to learn it at an intermediate level, suitable for professional interaction.  With mixed success, mind, but as I was learning I was asked if I would speak it back in Americaland.  While at the time I thought it was a silly notion (one can't even find the vocab for Lunda online, so far as I can tell) I've since wondered why not?  I have the language books, and I've got a mild dusting of the know-how left over.
      Presenting:  Lunda Word of the Day, via my Twitter account.  Every day (maybe twice, if I'm feeling adventurous) I'll add another word or phrase for public consumption.  I suppose there won't be much rhyme or reason to my word choices, just whatever strikes me for the day.  If nothing else, it's a pleasantly selfish jaunt down memory lane.  If something more, it's a verbal injection of a particularly obscure dialect into the online consciousness!

Amba-amba, y'all!

11 September 2011

Little By Little, A Diatribe Brewing

      After writing this morning's little spiel "Federalize It Or Let It Go... Ten Years On" it occurs to me that I've been succumbing bit-by-bit to partisanism over the last year or so.  Granted, since my teenage years I've borne political opinions of one sort or another.  Hell, I'm human!  But I've generally been able to keep my opinions to myself, and even those fairly moderate and obligingly vague.  Politics held an interest for me as an operating system, and I felt rather liberated from its more emotional wiles.
      And then came the 2010 midterms, and the national rumblings of a sweeping new movement.  Not that it's much of a new thing, this latter-day populism.  Proponents of Ross Perot, Southern Democrats, the Know-Nothings and Bull Moosers; America has a long, colorful history of political sub-groups that raise furious hub-bubbery and don stupid names.  The Tea Party is no exception in this regard.  Neither new nor in fact widely popular in the grand scheme of American politics, Populism is inherently energetic and thus the fairly unstable, poorly-organized yang to the dual party system's more sedate yin.  It takes issue, it rages, and it wanes; perhaps leaving behind some small legacy, but always survived by the the powers that be.
      Given the charged nature of the rhetoric employed and at times melodramatic (and occasionally ludicrous) aims of such movements, it is little wonder the nation's founding fathers sought to marginalize the impact of popular politicking on such crucial entities as the Senate and Presidency, and keep people altogether removed from choosing our highest judges.  In touting the merits of the creators of American democracy, many people forget the Adamses and Madisons and even Jeffersons were wary of the unbred masses.  Utilizing them from time time, surely, but after the elections try and keep them as far away from decision-making as humanly possible.  It is a system that even to this day largely operates on the notion that most people don't care about politics, and that those who really do are too far-out to matter.
      So why be bothered?  If it's merely another political El Niño, why get so up in a huff?  I suppose I can't really say why, but I feel irritated by this somewhat badly-timed uproar coming so soon on the heels of what I'd supposed had been a national triumph.  America had elected its first black president, and a charismatic and outspokenly progressive one at that.  It was a change I thought people had finally come to recognize was needed, still coming down from the cataclysmic crest of our questionably low-regulated bank and trade policies, from a drawn out and again questionable war against something as marginally frightening as 'terror'.  From dinosaur technologies that keep Americans tethered to the gas pump and living beyond the sustainably feasible.  
      We'd won, I thought at the time, and it was our turn to begin setting things right (better late than never, eh?).  Right for the environment, right for our infrastructure and our tax base.  Right for our spending priorities and domestic initiatives.  Restoring our image in the world's eye, vital in this global era of ours.  We were apparently moving onwards and ever upwards.  It would be a slow thing, perhaps spanning over ten or twenty years, but it was a work set in motion and I was excited by it.
      Sour grapes, maybe.  And while I can't quite divine where the nation is headed now I can safely say I disagree wholeheartedly with the direction people are trying to finagle it into.  Less a direction even, and more like an anchoring in place.  A stopping of the cart and slaughtering of the ox, if only to believe we are protecting the American quality of life.  But I dunno... at the end of the day I want to have an opinion, but not at the risk of sounding like any number of angry folk who take the art of argument and turn it into a name-calling match.  To wit...  I don't want to be that guy (or gal).  We have enough of those about already.

09 September 2011

The Winederlust

Just sitting about, listening to records (isn't it grand!!!?) and swilling several bottles of wine.  A song hisses on, and I find myself enthralled by a line...

I wish that I was born a thousand years ago
I wish that I'd sailed the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship
Going from this land here to that

Such an odd little ditty, yet so succinct.  Fits me just fine, because lord knows I love the sea.  Yet looking back I suppose it's all a pipe dream; hell, looking at the now it's all a pipe dream, eh?  Wish-wash-megosh and the like...

The now is the now.  There is no future perfect, though Autolux has a great album by the same name.  And though life may leave a person cast about the whims of fate, and though a person may likewise cast themselves upon the fates of whim; here is the now is the now, and never the twain should part like.  

I suppose I'm thinking about inane promises to drop the price of gas to pre-Family Matters levels, or maybe proposed drone strikes across and along the Mexican border.  But what I'm saying is more or less echoing the things Jon Huntsman cannot fully come out with; that a vote for the Republican Party is a vote against all reason.  It's a vote against the present, to the very physical damnation of the future.

And that, lads and ladies, is what happens when one dumps two litres of wine down a Dan Rudy.  You get a semi-sensical, non-abrasive rant.  Would that the O'Reilly tipple a bottle before air time!

07 September 2011

A Bit About the Twit (And Other Such Twings)

          So I've been delving into the wonderful world of Twitter the past month or so.  Yes, the Twitscape, primordial pond of new wordsup-to-date ideas, and mistaken identities; a sort of hundred-forty word newsprint personal of the moment.  Without looking up Twitter protocol any place in particular, I've been able to pick up a few of the mores.
Firstly, there're such things as pounds and at (plural), or # and @, respectively.  And that if you want to pound a word phrasing (non-jocularly, of course) one has to mash said phrase the gether.  So 'short stories' becomes #shortstory, the Mod Squad becomes #fashion, etc.  And all-the-gods-that-are forbid you quote something without an appropriate @originofthought.  Of course, that's the first rule of scholarship... cite yon source.
Also underpinning the Twitter universe is one's notoriety.  I've found that unless a body has more followers than followees, that body is schmobody, or maybe twobody... not quite grasped the lex as of yet.  Currently I'm batting at a low .216 so far.  Also!  Have you noticed that there are lots of spammers about on the Twitscape?  Like, supposed gals who follow to be followed (as twit-cordiality dictates) then pipe on about relationship advice and torrid sex talk, in between pushing scam link-ups.  Maybe that's just the me, but it smacked odd at first glance.  Second glance and I understood, of course.  Large nets cast over the e-seas of loneliness, I suppose.
More like than not, she'd kyped it from elsewhere... Is that libel?
Of course, for all you lonely folk out yaar there's good news on the news horizon!  Nightcaps are good for older women, apparently.  Yes, slosh a tall one down an attractive over-forty (possibly younger-fifty) and enjoy a bit of chat, gnosh, and romance.  Takes the edge off of that distant, less-than-hermetic online world, one might say.
But that's the Rudian day of the now; although the GOP debate (or debacle) certainly raised my eyebrows here and there.  The Obama 2012 train seems set to roll onwards, potentially under the slogan "Really?  This is their candidate??"

06 September 2011

Perhaps the Best Breakfast Ever

Not going to lie, but I think I may have discovered the greatest breakfast ever.  Follow me, if you will...

You need:
one English muffin
one egg
one sprig of green onion, chopped
one slice of Spam
one butterknifing of Vegemite
a touch of salt and pepper

Simply put, drop a dab of butter into a skillet on MED-HI and drop in the green onions first, keeping them to one side.  Drop on the slice of Spam, then after a minute drop an egg over the onions.  Pop down your English muffin in the toaster, flip egg and spam, then once the muffin pops apply Vegemite.  Cut spam and egg in half with spatula and top muffin halves with bit a of each and a sprinkling of your favorite cheese and perhaps fresh slice of tomato (if handily available).  However bold the breakfast, it would be incomplete without a pot of coffee and a side of Greek yoghurt.

And enjoy.

"Unrecyclable Atomic Backlash"

            Work is going a bit slowish the day, Tuesday-after-a-holiday like.  Tim idles behind the counter, staring off into space at gods-know-what with jaw ajar.  The obligatory and presumably consumer-friendly elevator music has been discarded in favor of a rousing and somewhat questionable selection of the Girl Talk.  Not my call, of course, being more loosely disposed towards the mixing boards and harpsichords.
            Wolf and the Gem are sitting at one of the dining tables, gossiping and talking everything but shop.  I suppose I would join them there, but can’t quite trouble myself to do so as my thoughts wander beyond the room.  Thinking about electrons, mostly.  Millions of billions of tiny electrons spinning about in the tips of my fingers, inexorably gravitating around their protons and neutrons for all time.  Then again, I’m wondering if atoms ever really ‘die’, or if time and due process merely shift them about for eternity. 
It’s really starting to bother me actually, stretching my thoughts as far back into 11th grade chemistry as they will possibly go.  Further even than that, I’m reminding myself, remembering that I’d taken 11th grade chemistry in the 10th.  11th was a private school year, parochially stripped of the biological sciences.  Spent instead learning about man’s place in the environment so intelligently designed as to have a few flaws here and yon.  We’d gone to a recycling center that year and learned from a gruff overalled mainstay of the program that most of the shit people throw into the recyclables are not, point of fact, recyclable.  Thin plastic, for starters.
Thin plastic that I find myself looking at back in the now and here, one of those take-out containers we dole out by the hundreds every day for fat fuckers’ caramel rolls and oatmeal bars and crispy whatsits.  Sitting there atop the recycle bin brazenly, a bulky unrecyclable travesty that likewise leaves its consumers feeling unduly good about themselves the rest of the morning.  I recycle, ergo sum on his (or her) crumb-encrusted lips.
“Gerroff,” I grumble as I pick the vaguely unclean thing up and drop it into the proper trash.
“Hey!  Hey!  What are you doing?” the Gem pipes up from the table.  “Why did you do that?”
I shrug.  “It’s non-recyclable.  We shouldn’t even carry the damned things.”
“Non-recyclable?” and I swear that she’s up on her tiny feet and stomping towards me rather quickly.  “Non-recyclable?  Look- Look!” she exclaims, fishing out the box and shaking it at me in an incredibly irritating fashion.  “See those arrows on the bottom?  See them?  Do you see?”
“Look, you daft cow,” I begin, near about as much as I can take.  The music is maybe making me nervvy, or perhaps I just hate the very sight of Gem after five or so months of coworking the same shop.  I push the box away, incredibly careful not to make any contact with her tiny hand.  “Just because it’s got the arrows doesn’t make it so.  As it happens, cheap thin little plastics like this are not recyclable.  They get burnt off in the process by the millions.  Haven’t you ever been to a recycling center?”
“Look,” she says again with a gesticulative thrust of the box, and I dare say I thwack the thing from her hand.  The box lands, oddly enough, in the recycle bin once more.  She stands there nonplussed, a look of moral outrage growing on her cleaver of a face.
“Fucking spastic,” I mutter as I march back round the kitchen towards the office.  “I’m going to look this up!” I shout, and by God and the Wikipedia I fully shall.
“You hit me!” she says after me.
“I never even touched ya!” I reply, feeling a bit like something out of a Spencer Tracy film.  Course, there wasn’t any contact.  Of course of course, I can only tell myself, a dozen conflicting arguments flaring up within.  She shouldn’ta been pushing the box in my face - s’about time - shun’ta done that man - in for it now - and the like, tempestuously rollicking against each other.  But I sit down to the big desk and jiggle the mouse as the computer screen crackles to life, doubts and thoughts subsiding as our erstwhile question takes over.  
Of course, now the moment has passed I find myself less interested in the recycling question, wondering instead about my earlier atomic problem.  I type, wondering what the easiest way to phrase my query might be.  how long do atoms last seems about right, and sure enough there’s a spot at the top, tailor-fit to my question.  I follow the link and read on, learning after a minute or so that atoms either fade out after a malformed nanosecond or else last forever until otherwise dickered with. 
“Hmm, interesting,” I say aloud to myself, feeling fairly well satisfied that the train of thought had reached its destination.  Disembarked, I’m wondering what’s new on the Facebook.  I punch in the address and go, and at a cursory glance am somewhat surprised to see myself already logged in.  I don’t stop to ponder; rather, I’m looking through the Home splash, seeing who all is doing what.  Surprisingly, there are a dozen friend requests showing red in my upper left corner.  I begin to peruse them, don’t-know don’t-know thought-we-were-friends don’t-know and the like, paring and picking and choosing perfunctorily.
Finally I’ve got the list back down to nothing pending, and I’m starting to check the bulky array of messages in my inbox.  Jesus wept if it isn’t filled with spam!  Big meaty hunks of noble cause, fundraisy spam all sent to me by one Sara Kimball, whose name I don’t quite recall.  Join now, donate this, perfunctualate that.  “Who the holy hell is this?” I hear myself exclaiming as I’m skimming and deleting, skimming and deleting.
“The hell is who?” Wolf asks from behind me, and I explain to him the Kimball spam situation.  “Unfriend her ass,” he says with a smirk.  “I only keep fifty friends at any time, bumping people I don’t talk to or can’t remember knowing too well.  I figure fifty people is the most I can physically deal with at any one time.”
“Huh,” I reply as I go through the unfriending and block process with Miss Kimball.  “That’s a fairly new idea.  Am I in the top fifty?”
“For now.  Just don’t ever cross me,” he winks and we share a laugh.  “The Gem’s fairly pissed at you,” he adds after a bit as I’m scouring the friends listing.  I can’t say I remember half of these people, if that.
“I didn’t even make contact with her,” I begin to say, and suddenly my body freezes as I see the name in the top left of the screen:  Shoshone Dirker.  The Gem.  “Oh Jesus Christ,” I whisper.  “Is there any way to undo anything I’ve just now done?”
“Why, what did you- oh wow.  HA!”  And after a double-take Wolf laughs once more.  I explain to him the mix-up, I think rationalizing to myself that we share so many of the same friends I’d simply thought it had been my own page.  “Wow.  Don’t tell her,” he admonishes, and I heartily agree.  I log off and we exit the office, indeed intent never to mention this again.
“Well?” the Gem snaps, feigning to nurse her hand over a cup of tea in the kitchen.
“Like I said,” I say.  “They’re not really recyclable.  It’s a corporate thing.”

"Man Teabagged in Kitchen"

      "Walter needs a change," he thinks tiredly to himself in the third-person one bitterly cold mid-February afternoon. Languishing through another obligatory three-hour break between shifts, the sort that wide-stance a workday to improbable lengths. The drive home had been nondescript, slow-going and mindful of ice. Lunch is likewise nondescript, a can of microwaved SpaghettiOs® and a pressed-ham-product sandwich over tea. Between the bland mouthfuls and bleak view of his snowbound backyard Walter begins to feel a bit compressed, spiritually.
      That is to say, having been dancing about the edge of depression for such a long stretch of time today Walter becomes acutely aware his feelings have clutch-and-shifted gear into a newer, much more thorough stage. Between bland mouthfuls of ham and tomato stuff he wonders what day it is, either a Tuesday or a Friday. That he cannot for the life of himself remember - and that even if he could it wouldn't have mattered - Walter realizes that his life had become an empty one, an interminable march toward old age and unbending routine.
      This clutch-shift feels like an icy cavity in Walter's chest, combined with what might have been the beginning of a cough tightening. For all intents and purposes he might well have died inside for the feel of it, and all the hot tea in the world couldn't revitalize him. There seemed no way out; his salary was enough to pay the bills, but so far as savings went they hardly came enough to go again. No, short of finding a miracle job online there was no discernible way up from the rut.
      And it was a thought, the job search. A few clicks and clacks here, a point of the mouse there, upload, send and wait. If it were but that simple. Daunting, even in the best of moods. And as things are, Walter can scarcely find the energy to rinse his bowl and rack it. So he shoots back the mug, getting at the last bit of tea and - fwooph! - the soggy bag comes with it and nestles itself into the back of Walter's throat, catching his gag reflex in addition to cutting off his air supply.
Shocking! - Man Teabagged In Kitchen
      He tries retching it up, mind in a state of shock and panic. "My god, I'm going to die from a teabag," he thinks to himself frantically. He could visualize the scurrilous headlines, Man Teabagged In Kitchen, drawing in readers for a bit of a laugh at his expense. Unable to work the bag out with his neck muscles, he attempts to reach in with his fingers to try and wrest it out. Desperate probing gropings about the inside of his lukewarm mouth as his digits stretch themselves to their fullest, scarcely able to touch the filter material. Then suddenly he remembers the string! The string and tag are still hanging out of his face.
      Walter gives it an enthusiastic tug. Damnation if the string doesn't tear free of its bag! He looks at it swinging limply with disbelief as his free hand tugs absently at his collar. Dying, running out of air. Drowning dry. Already the pressure on his head is beginning to tighten. Pulsating in and out, losing clarity. He leans over against the fridge, fingers resuming their last ditch search for the bag.
      For naught.  Air. Needing air as the blackness envelops him. Fading, going, dropping to the floor and at last retching dying gone.

04 September 2011

Debilitatingly, My Vas Deferens!

Here's something that takes the air out of my ass:  the nerve... the very gall of that damned red underlining spell check squiggle trying to dumb down my fucking English!  Every goddamn paragraph it would seem, naysaying (ooh! there's one!) every blithering shite-encrusted bit of verbage (another, there) I see fit to type down.  Earlier today, while working on my 9/11 article I encountered a number of such inconveniences.  Distillated, archaeity, prattlings, and acerbic were among them, not to mention the understandably unrecognized slurry of foreign words, like djinn and burqa.  It happens and I've got to double guess myself, count my t's and look up the placement of my i's and e's.  It happens on the Facebook, as well.  Just now, debilitatingly (hey, even now) rings up red, as does vas deferens.  Scrote-squelching faggotry afoot in the world of online editing, it seems like.
I dunno.  It's damned stultifying... which oddly enough seems alright to say.

Dudleys in the Mist: Apologetics, Torture, and the American Djinn

Halloa, Chums and Foundlingidings!

I've decided to move this article to more intemperate climes, that of my friend and peer Adam's acerbic zeitgeist-gashing blog, Dear Dirty America.  Vitriol like that is best kept the gether, eh?

So enjoy "Dudleys in the Mist," and Dear Dirty America here.