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.