Friday, July 25, 2014

The Machine of Life, AKA (Who Are You?)

            It rained last night. A soothing rain A cleansing rain, yet, when I walked down the street I saw cigarette butts, broken bottles and the detritus of humanity. My sojourn brought to my memories of a time when the streets were always clean. Streets that rose up to meet my feet or the wheels of my bicycle. Now, however, the streets are just filled with the filth of humanity. Filled with the unwanted and discarded waste of daily life.
            As I make my way down the street filled with the discarded and unthoughtful wasted merchandise of American life, I can’t help but think of a time not too many decades ago when daily street sweepers removed the unthoughtful waste of humanity. A time when eager men were rewarded with jobs that helped them pay the bills, put their kids in good schools and a decent meal on their table when they got home from a hard day at work.
            A time when men and women would keep the shades and curtains open on their windows. When people took a certified interest in who their neighbors were and how the children of the neighborhood were raised.
            Any infraction of common welfare was recorded and dispersed to either the parents or the friends of the parents so that the offenders would be punished accordingly. I had my more than fair share of punishment for actions that were committed without parental supervision. That is to say, I was a juvenile delinquent and suffered the consequences of my actions. Looking back now, hindsight being twenty-twenty, I got off easy.
            Still, my wasted youth does not forgive what I’ve observed over the past few years.
            I remember when I first moved to my current city, a city that has a proud and historical heritage yet still has secrets to hide. The city was dirty. Filled with drug dealers, hookers, panhandlers and grifters. In an attempt to preserve the integrity of my adopted home I took a position within the judiciary system. It was a failed attempt.
            Sure, we cleaned the streets up, yes we moved the grifters out of the city limits but we did not manage to tear down the network that allowed the offensive scoundrels of humanity to operate. The plague, the disease, the broken bits of internal politics were still in place. Men and women who made countless dollars off of the lawbreakers and hoodlums of our society were still in place.
            Our efforts only made them, the movers and shakers, change the tact of business. They started to use the laws of the land and recite “for the betterment of the people” of our fair city as the end cause for the justification of their rules. When the observations of the people questioned the actions of the elected, the elected changed their tact. They blamed the ones who held office before them for the inequality and did their best to cover their own actions.
            Today, many years later, I still watch with interest. I have never given anyone who has held office my voice, my vote or my favor.
            This city, a city in which I’ve come to adopt has become a second home, a primary home for me. A place where I can hang my hat, purchase a house, develop a career and build a life. Yet, I can’t help but think there is something broken.
            Over all the years I’ve been here, I look upon the current events, the past events and what will be the future events and think, “It will get better.” Especially when I know it won’t.
            How can things get better? When graft, nepotism and the total lack of ingenuity is rewarded with higher positions, higher salaries and with no expectations of a discernable and viable production of work or effort?
            How can one, one who is a cog in a larger machine, define himself, define herself or even wholly believe that what they are doing, what they are manufacturing, what they are contributing, make an ounce of difference in a world whose sole purpose is to gain favor? Favor that they can trade for another favor or a person in a position who can grant them favor?
            It is almost incomprehensible.
            I, and many like me, who fix, repair, and troubleshoot the problems of daily life are tasked with a workload that should spread over a dozen able bodied men and women. Yet here we are, overworked, over taxed and under rewarded for our endeavors, making the plasma of youth renew its energy while we can barely stand, walk and convey ourselves from one point to the next.
            We continue simply because we breathe. We fix things because that is what fills us with a sense of satisfaction. We show up early, we leave late and we do what we do because it satisfies within us a need of controlling our environment. We like to be able to look at a problem and know its solution before anyone else can even comprehend the issue that caused the problem in the first place.
            Our reward comes from the support, be it financial or metaphysical, of the people who hold the purse strings. We get the parts we need to fix the problems that we’ve been tasked with fixing. We continue our journey through the naysayers, the sycophants and the fence sitters. We have no choice.
            We are the producers who bring the small things to your life that you have no idea are part of your life. We bring you small things, the inconsequential things, the items that you take for granted. When we are gone, and I pray to God that we leave soon, you will realize what sort of comfort, what sort of appeasement and what sort of comfort we give you.
            If we leave, you will have no other choice but to try and fill our shoes. Shoes, you have taken for granted, shoes you’ve looked down upon and shoes that make your daily lives easier.
            We are John Galt, we are Tyler Durden, We are the cogs in the machine you take for granted. Beware of us. We hold more power than you realize.

            Have a great week. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Skip is a Punk.

            In 1976 I was eight going on nine, my mother loaded my three sisters, my cousin, myself her friend and her friends daughter into a station wagon and headed for Washington D.C. to celebrate the nations bicentennial. Yes, this was early July. Where the station wagon came from I have no idea, and how six kids and two adults along with the metric ton of clothes, games, toys, blankets, pillows and other sundries, I will never understand.
            I was positioned in the back of the car along with the daughter of my mother’s friend. I really didn’t mind. It afforded me time to read, watch the world pass by backwards and I was quite comfortable lying on my sleeping bag with my head resting on my pillow. Even though it was hot as Hades back there, for I don’t think the car had air conditioning or if it did, the cool air never reached as far back into the vehicle where I was stationed.
            I do remember occasionally playing car bingo, watching my cousin who had strep throat and decided eating potato chips was a good idea gets his ass whipped by my mom. I recall reading multiple books, playing cards, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of a cooler and sipping luke warm milk. When I was tired, I slept, that is until the girl who was relegated to staying in the back with me got sick. This was not a fun thing, no matter how much we cleaned the car, the stench of vomit could not be removed, even with the windows open and a sixty mile rush of air fought for superiority over the obnoxious aroma.
            As for the music on the radio… I can’t recall, I wish I could, but if there was anything playing on the old AM/FM receiver either I didn’t like it and blocked it out, or it was never turned on. I believe the former is true rather than the latter. Simply because as far back as I can aI was interested in rock and roll and my family… pop music. Therefore, if any music was played, it was most likely pop and I blocked the offensive melodies from invading my mind.
            The trip, where we stayed, what I did to get my ass whipped by my mother in front of Abraham Lincoln and the endless nights of sneaking out into suburbia with my cousin are tales for another time. Instead, let us now hope into a time machine and fast forward a bit… to the year 1979. A year where my musical tastes changed with a simple decision.
            Late August, early September of 1979, living in Green Bay, Wisconsin the air steadily cooling one never left home without a light weight jacket and I was no exception. My motley crew of pals and I spent those last days of freedom riding our bikes, shooting our bb guns, listening to rock music and scoring cigarettes where we could. We were all trying to make the most of the last vestiges of summer. Late night pool hopping parties, sleep over’s in the rafters of our respective garages where no real sleep ever took place, and chasing after girls even though our attention span was that of a fleeting gnat and if any of us really managed to garner the attention of someone of the fairer sex, we certainly wouldn’t know what to do with her.
            Yes, we were kings of the tawdry streets of the Midwest. I don’t know whose idea it was to go see a movie but once the subject was broached, we all eagerly agreed. We jumped on our bikes and headed downtown to the theaters. In Green Bay, around 1977, a mall was built in the downtown district called Port Plaza, it was a cool place to hang out, play video games, drink Orange Julius and eat Rueben’s at Pranges. Also, outside the mall was a great candy store where the old man behind the counter made the candy by hand as well as several different kinds of popcorn. The theaters were not part of the mall, nor were they next to the candy store but in order for us to save what little money we had, we stopped by the candy shop and locked our bikes in the bike racks at the mall. Then we walked the three or four blocks to the theatres.
            On movie house showed only adult films, we couldn’t go there, another showed a movie we decided we would never be able to get into because of the rating. The last one was showing a movie called “Rock and Roll High School” it was rated PG. We knew we could get in.  So we bought our tickets, and went in to watch the show.
            I fell in love with Riff Randall aka P.J. Soles and laughed at all the antics of craziness of Vince Lombardi High School, (named after the late, great head football coach of the Green Bay Packers!) but what really blew me away… was the music. Marky, Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee and of course the first drummer Tommy, banging out the basic chords of Rock-n-Roll High school, Blitzkrieg Bop and Lobotomy blew my mind away. Not to mention the songs of Todd Rundgren (who I’d already heard of) and of course Alice Cooper (who everyone had heard of by then) gave me a great appreciation of the film.
            But the Ramones music… the punk sound that threw away all the basic rules of modern music that I’d been listening too made my mind snap. They had managed to strip away almost all but the core harmony and melody leaving only a juvenile rhythmic beat that was topped off with the gravely singing of Joey Ramone. Even in the brief scenes of the film where the Ramones eventually show up and the manager of the band is forcing the band to eat alfalfa sprouts instead of pizza was funny.
            When we left the theatre I talked my buddies into stopping by the record store. When we got there, I asked the clerk about “The Ramones”. The young twenty-something behind the counter had long greasy hair, and pointed to the far corner of the store to a hand written sign that read “PUNK”. My two compatriots scattered about the store, Fish was looking at some of the new head gear located behind the glass counters, Fin was checking out soundtrack albums. I headed towards where the head-case had pointed me.
            The bins for the punk albums were small. Only four compartments, two of which held Ramon albums, another had a band called “The Sex Pistols”, which intrigued me. But I knew if I came home with an album by a band called “The Sex Pistols” my mom would have a conniption. I grabbed two albums by the Ramones, the self titled debut and “Rocket to Russia”. Both were on sale. When I asked the clerk about sale of punk albums he said “No one listens to that crap. It’s too angry.”
            “I kinda like it.” I responded.
            “Then you need to relax a bit more, like your pal over there.” He said and pointed to Fish who was now holding a small brown bag in his hand. On his face was a large shit eating grin. I knew immediately what he had bought and what we would end up doing when we got back to his basement.
            About that time Fin showed up holding an album to his chest. I gave him a quizzical look but he just pushed past me.
            After Fin purchased his record, hiding it from us as much as possible, we headed back to Fish’s house. Riding was a bit difficult for me and Fin simply because our packages required for us to hold on to them with one hand while Fish’s package easily fit in his pocket.
            In Fish’s basement I quickly set the album’s on the turntable and started to play them, Fish pulled out his new head pipe and began to fill it. Fin’s purchase went forgotten. That night we smoked and listened to the hard strumming albums over and over and lived for every grinding note.
            Last week, the last founding member of The Ramones died. Tommy. With his passing so goes another part of my youth. He was the drummer for the first album with one of the best songs in punk history. “Blitzkrieg Bop”. He only was the drummer for a few short years but he went on to help manage the band through all its members.
            All this past week I’ve listened to the classic radio station off and on. Not one Ramones song has been played. There was however an announcement of Tommy’s death, but no tribute to one of the greatest punk bands from America.
            A band that single handedly launched the sales of leather jackets, torn jeans and white tee-shirts along with Chuck Taylor shoes.
            I can’t say I’m going to miss the Ramones, I wish I could, but I can’t, simply because I will always have their music to reconnect me to those heady days of the late seventies and the early eighties.
            For now though I’m gonna go listen to some Ramones and hope my mind if flooded with memories of youth, laughter, irresponsibility’s and misguided decisions based on altered states of mind. As I type this I’m smiling and can only believe that somewhere out in the ether, the original Ramones are in some other-worldly garage plugging in their instruments while countless incorporeal onlookers develop goose pimples in anticipation of the first notes of “Blitzkrieg Bop” or “Judy is a Punk” or “The KKK took my Baby Away” or “Let’s Dance” or “Rockaway Beach” or “Teenage Lobotomy.”
            I know if I were dead, I’d attend that concert.

            Have a great week.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Ironic Joe

            One of the great things about my jobs is that I get to observe people. All manner of people from all over the world. People who are economically challenged people who never seem to worry about a dollar and every kind in between. That being said, those people, the visitors to the museum, to the restaurant and the occasional contractor are not the only ones I observe.
            Each and every individual has a story to tell, whether verbally, or by the actions they perform in public view. I like to believe most individuals on this planet are good. They are here trying to do their best to survive and not damage others around them. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Our history books are filled with both kinds, although the latter get much more attention than the former. Truth be told, it is easier to find out more information about Hitler, Stalin, Polpot, Amin, Hussein and many other infamous individuals that it is to find out the same volume of information on the people that actually help others. It’s an odd sort of dynamic of the human condition. We seem to thrive upon the wrong doings of others rather than focus on the charity of the masses.
            This is about one of the few persons that rarely come to my attention and it is because of his actions that I write this blog. I don’t know this persons’ name so I will call him “Joe”.
            Tuesday night, five in the afternoon, I’m sitting at my part time job waiting for the first customers to arrive. Seated a few feet from me was the owner and next to me his son, also a waiter. The hostess, the owner’s daughter was standing at the hostess counter. The owner and I were talking about various things in the political and not so political world. We were in good spirits and ready for a night of hard work. My coworker seated next to me was busy playing with his smart phone, a dull look of incandescent glossiness in his eyes when the door to the restaurant opens.
            We were seated in the back of the restaurant where it is a bit dim and looking towards the curtained covered glass door and into the sunlight. I couldn’t make out who was standing there but what I heard peaked my interest.
            “God Bless You.”
            Seriously, that is what I heard on a Tuesday evening. Not the normal greeting from a patron of a food establishment. I squinted my eyes and leaned forward to get a better look as the visitor boldly stepped into the building. Both myself and the owner stopped talking and gave our full attention to the suspected patron.
            “God Bless You.” He said again as he approached the hostess. She stared at him, her head cocked to the side a bit.
            “Listen, I was hoping you could help me out. I’m trying to get to Norfolk on the bus to get to the homeless shelter and I only need a dollar fifty. Can you help me out? Or maybe two bucks so I can get a drink? It’s really hot out.”
            The young hostess audibly sighs, nods her head and begins digging through her change purse. The sound of clinking coins add a strange tune to the jazz music playing over the speakers. I look at my boss and say “Should I just give him a coke from the fridge?” But my question falls on deaf ears. He is too engrossed in observing his daughter digging rooting around for change to pay attention to me.
            “I really appreciate you helping me out, I’ve been stuck here. God Bless You.” He says again. “I can’t seem to get out of here. Thanks, God Bless You.” He then looks to the back of the restaurant and notices us sitting there looking at him. “Hi, God Bless You, thank you for your help.” He says to us.
            “I’m not going to help you.” My boss says. “You need to help yourself.”
            Then the man made huge mistake. He confronted my boss, a man who is a extremely smart, powerfully driven and self made. The beggar whom I’m going to call Joe as I said before looks at the owner and says “What? You don’t believe in charity?”
            Oops… I say silently to myself knowing what this man and his family have done for charity in the past fifteen years. Well, I may not know how much but I do know it is a lot just from what I’ve seen.
            The owner points to Joe and yells “You’re not a charity, there is nothing wrong with you. Go get a job, like everyone else.”
            Joe’s reply… which was classic, “There aren’t any jobs. I’ve tried. That’s what brought me here.”
            “You’re lying; there are “Help Wanted” signs all over the place. I saw three this morning on this block alone. You’re not helpless you’re just lazy.” He then looks at his daughter and says “don’t give him any money. I wouldn’t.”
            The daughter/hostess stands at her station almost frozen, her gaze moving from her father to Joe. She’s unsure what to do.
            “Man, you aint gonna help me? What’s up with that?” Joe questions. His voice getting louder and sounding angry.
            “Get out of here. You’re just too lazy to work. We don’t need you here and stay away from our front door.” The owner retorts with almost joyful tones in his words.
            Joe opens the door “Man… Fuck YOU! FUCK YOU ALL! You all can go FUCK YOURSELVES.” He yells as he leaves.
            “God Bless You.” The owner says.
            I laughed for ten minutes. Still am as I write this.
            While it’s true, I never clearly made out “Joe’s” face it took just a few short days for me to finally realize who he was. He is the homeless man affectionately known as “Poopy-Pants”. You see, he starts panhandling around four in the afternoon and by seven o’clock at night he is so drunk he usually soils himself. Where-upon he starts to enter places of business to use their restrooms to clean himself up. He is highly unsuccessful in this venture. Why? Because who wants a drunk, stinking, poop covered man walking through a restaurant full of paying customers? Also, there are at least three public restrooms within two block of the business.
            I’ve seen Joe in the past panhandling outside many of the downtown businesses. He tells the same story over and over again. He’s stuck here, he’s trying to leave and only needs a small amount to get out of town. Of course there are a lot of people who tell the same story. But only one is Poopy-Pants-Joe.
            God Bless You.
            Have a great week.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rave, Rant and Almost lose my Pants.

Wow, I just realized it was Thursday night and my weekly deadline in looming. (How ominous). My problem is that I don’t what to write about this week. Nothing seems to stand out to me. I mean, sure, I have plenty of topics floating around my scattered and scared mind that I could explore, but what would make anyone want to read those?
            Quick update, I attended a horror convention that I was reluctant to go to. I also saw firsthand the works of the adversary in my church and I worked hard and diligently to stop a mold infection of an almost irreplaceable artifact collection. That has been my week so far. But which topic do I talk about? What do you want to hear about? Then again, not to be callous, what does your impact as a reader have on what is most important to me in my life at this point?
            I suppose I could try and combine all of them. It would make for one truly convoluted blog but I can try… So here goes.
            I started/ended last week in Williamsburg, Virginia at a convention called “Scares that Care”. It was/is a convention where the profits go towards charity. I can’t think of a good reason not to attend something that benefits women and children, especially when there are so many cool writers around. Sure, there were actors, artists and vendors, but my main focus was and will always be writers. People that create from their mind and the tortures they’ve endured the tales of woe that give us fear, pause and hope. These people are fascinating to me. Maybe it is because I strive to be one, or maybe it is because I see in them the things that have brought me to where I am today.
            A tortured soul, stuck in between people I’m supposed to love, do love and people I would never have any dealing with in my real life. I’m talking about family.
            Family… funny who we consider who and what they are. Think about it. Sure, our blood relatives are our family, but how many times do you reach out to them? How often do you talk, connect and share with them? Can you trust them? Can you rely upon them? Can you call them at three am and have them bail you out of jail? If you can, then you are lucky. I know I can’t. I wish I could say differently but I can’t.
            I met a bunch of folks, like minded folks this weekend, who have an eye on the dark, the painful, the disparaged and who live life on a razors edge. People who see things as either good or evil. People who see things the way I see them. They see life as a journey, as a transition from one place to the next and when they finally get to the end of this place, they want to be used up, worn out and an empty husk of what they once were. They want to look back and say “Damn! Did you see that shit? It was crazy but I survived and now I’m here! Can I do it again? No? Okay, what’s next?”
            Crazy cool people who’ve lived their entire lives without knowing what is next. Or if they do, they just don’t care. But you know what? That’s what draws me to them. Not the walking dead, the absence of value, but the ones who know what they want, how to create what fulfills them and go forth and produce it. Those are the individuals I enjoy meeting and talking seem to have lost. Yet, right now, I’m trying hard to find again. A joy in the present with an unknowing eye on the future and a well-placed focus on their past. Men and women who can reach down into their selves and see what made them and why they act like they do. People on the razors edge.
            I feel as if I’m always on that shiny, steel edge of life. As if at any moment all that I’ve worked for can be taken away in an instant. That being said, what happened when I returned from my excursion was of little surprise.
            Yeah, Brian, not the Navy Brian, I’m talking about you and Josh. You guys have suffered and are in the midst of some sort of crisis that I wish I could avert with a single thought. But I can’t, I’m only a corporeal substance on this mudball. (Yeah, I like mudball, what of it?) Just know this treachery and torture is but a small part of a larger picture. I am behind you and if it comes to blows, I am now and will always be a soldier for the light. Even though I dwell in the dark. I suppose that is the best place for a soldier, to live, breathe and survive where there is almost no light, but when called upon, to nut up and take out the adversary where they least expect it.
            It’s not a place I recommend. Nor would I suggest to anyone. Unless you are of like mind and intellect, you cannot possibly understand. If, however you do understand then you know the commitment and the toll it takes on ones soul to fight the good fight. To place yourself into the abyss with no hope of coming back. If this is you, join the quest, if not, sit by the sidelines and watch the carnage. It’s not pretty, it’s not nice and it is definitely not made for family television. It’s dirty, ugly and leaves most involved questioning the reality of this mudball. I don’t question, I act and react.
            So, if anyone from the “Circle” who’ve deemed themselves more knowledgeable and worthy than the elected want to tussle, I’m more than ready to scrap. Just know, I take no prisoners and there will be no quarter afforded. I’m in it for the long haul. You may think you know better but you don’t. You’ve forgotten what you’ve been taught and what has been offered to you. Do not test me. You will lose and you will not know from whence you started until it is too late.
            There is more in scripture about trust, from Joshua to Revelation, than you will ever understand. Same goes for trusting the fishers of men, from exodus to second Timothy and beyond. As for elected officials, from Exodus through Romans. Go figure.
            There is an inherent trust we should afford our leaders and if you have an issue, please feel free to talk to them. Either one on one or in a group. But, please do not sell yourself out to subterfuge, a tool of the adversary, in an attempt to figure out what you feel is wrong in your life or others. It will only lead to smoke and mirrors put in your path by the adversary.
            We, as a unit, a whole, as believers, need to be strong and of one mind. Not separated by sensitivities of this earth real existence. Trust in those who’ve been faithful and not led you astray. People who have been looking towards the light, offering help and assistance to those that need it. No one needs platitudes when they are parched, they need water, life giving water. It’s easy to see the difference. You just have to look through the fog of war that is raging all around you.
            Do I follow these principals? I try. I honestly try. Am I successful? For the most part I am. Then again, I am human and subject to the physicality of our nature. I try to forgive, to forget and to understand those that don’t. I try to be the better man. I don’t always succeed but when I do, my reward is more than I can bare. You, yes, you, you know whom I’m talking to, should try it. You may discover something not just about yourself but about those you have been following for year after year. It’s a catch 22, if you will. You will always have questions and few answers, but you will always have peace and know that what you’ve done is for the best interest of your beliefs.
            As I look down upon my word count I realize I’ve more than exceeded my weekly use of the English language, so instead of going on, I’m going to call it quits for the night and week. Besides, I have a story to flush out. Hopefully something that will get published and put some sheckles in my pocket.

            Have a great week.