In The Now

In a voice reminiscent of Raymond Carver‘s minimalist realism, Charles Bukowski‘s raw journals of life’s underbelly and Alan Ginsberg‘s poet-political essays, Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized, short stories, poetry and prose are funny, insightful and heartbreaking, describing often in non-linear dreamscape narrative with the liquid lyricism of a poet; the love, loss, joy and angst of the fascinating and often mystifying connections of men and women in the intimacy of their daily lives. His writing style is both Anti-Novel and Imagist; fragmenting and distorting the experiences of characters, forcing the reader to build a reality to the story from a disordered narrative, stressing economy of language; writing free, with precision of imagery and clear, sharp language and clarity of expression with precise visual images in musical phrase. – Gino Rossi

Wonderland

The other night I had a dream; it was not the first. I dreamed of an alternative universe” - The Pencilnecks

I ambled down the driveway at dawn; dew drops balanced like diamonds on the tips of God’s velvety emerald-green hair and spread across the gently sloping lawn. The scrub maple seed pods put out their dark red dollhouse chandeliers and the forsythia along the way, Chartreuse and ready to blossom into yellow fronds, made the foliage, moving in the breeze under the bright sun bursting over the horizon, a golden fountain.

I walked through the gray-blue haze that hung mystical. The chill in the air made my breath hang in front of me like cigarette smoke until it mingled lost in the fog. A ruby crowned Cardinal resting on a small swamp maple, green now, held a curious look on its face; as if it wanted to ask me a question. I spoke to her in pantomime and she hung on my every word. After the night I’d just had I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d spoke; not really certain in the surreal setting if I were awake or still astral projecting an out-of-body experience.

The gray weathered dock reached about 15 feet out into the water. Moored to the end was an old heavy planked flat-bottomed rowboat sheltered from the wind in the early morning Indian summer sun. My shore waters were calm but the rest of the lake was alive with small, sun-dappled waves. It was the kind of morning I knew would evolve into the quiet dignity of a sparkling autumn afternoon. I sat there for a while and allowed my thought to simmer; meditating on last night’s magical and mysterious gonzo dream.

Maybe it was just wishful thinking held subterranean and aroused from my subconscious. But the beauty of the dream was it’s what I wished were true; that everyone, once in the hereafter, sit through a rewind of their entire life 

It’s not correct to say it was a dream since as soon as my head hit the pillow I drifted into twilight; that place just before REM sleep; the state sleep scientists say we need to dump all the waste our brains pick up in a day from stimuli that comes at us so fast and in such high volume we can’t process it to any logical conclusion so it just bounces around in there. Without the twilight waste disposal period just before deep sleep, that space we think of as an inability to fall asleep, our brains age prematurely; increasing by more than 50%, the potential for onset of Alzheimer’s.

I lay there on my back floating; suspended half in sleep half in wakefulness; empty; quiet. It came upon me raw and unexpected like an avalanche. The bottom of my world fell out from under me. I felt my insides twist which was more than strange since I no longer had any insides. I was ephemeral; formless; only consciousness. But the sense memory of my decades alive still remained; similar to the experience of losing a limb and still being able to feel it. I had the feeling of being forced into a tight corner.

I felt a tilt-a-whirl centrifugal surface tension sensation that held me down, invisible, untouchable, nowhere but everywhere, fragile but all-imprisoning; like an infantry company before an attack, the witnesses before an execution, a courtroom before a verdict, a family before the moment of death. I heard a shuffling distant and low before a bright flash of rainbow liquid light covered the movie screen in my head; like the damn planet had just exploded into Armageddon.

Walt Disney appeared on my Technicolor video screen smiling an introduction to Fantasia as music from the Beatles echoed. Picture yourself in a boat on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly; the girl with kaleidoscope eyes. Cellophane flowers of yellow and green towering over your head. Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone.”

A chorus line of dancing hippopotamus and elephants appeared wearing lace tutu’s backed by a line of enormous Japanese sumo wrestlers in ceremonial belts with long braided hair tied high in traditional topknot; they danced on tiptoes. Images sped past me; an infinity line of identical Dick Cheney’s dressed as The Joker wearing suicide vests. Each one motioned to me with an outstretched red crab-claw hand holding a diabetic syringe with a dissolving zombie toothed snicker mouthing the words “here; have some Ebola.” An endless parade of these undead creepy head of the Mason family of American geopolitics filing past made me certain I was headed for hell. And then, just like in life, he’s smoke; there, then not.

I saw an Andy Warhol portrait series retrospective of the eerie vacant faces of mass shooters. Rapid MTV style flash cuts of images; like cops firing fatal bullets into young black men played in a high rotation infinity loop. The CNN style scroll at the bottom of my screen announced late breaking news. “33 A.D.; Judas Iscariot betrays his buddy Jesus for 30 pieces of silver then hangs himself.” Suicide video at 10 pm.”

I thought I’d died when, rising through the clouds, appeared a majestic figure. He carried the air of a god-man wizard prankster. He gave me a look I couldn’t classify. His hands are not merely without callous, they look larval, as if they have never been exposed to light. They are as white as paint and his fingers are long and thin and so are his fingernails which are the color of pearls. He is jovial, portly and sporting a full white beard; looking every bit Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His welcome had the air of being honorific; as if I had accomplished a great achievement and was being awarded a grand honor.

He wore a perfectly tailored futuristic looking organdie tunic of fine translucent silk and a perpetual smile that was somewhat subdued by his eyes that burned Paul Newman aqua-marine. He was a bulging forehead vein of a man seeming of great purpose, visible in the way he walked and in his wizened smile but mostly you could hear it in his voice which spoke of tough love and bitter wisdom. He said his name was Peter, a patent leather name delivered with a soft snap that was rapid but cool. He pronounced in a strange echo “I’ll bet about now you’re trying to find the pony in all this horse shit; trying to make sense of all this madness, right?. This will help” he said. Then a smokey waterfall parted and every friend I had ever known from cradle to coffin walked toward me with a hail-fellow-well-met smile. .

Being in their presence created a pleasant feeling as I would later learn would be true of everyone there. It was something, I was later told, that had to do with being without guile; having pure honesty and no hidden agenda; a result of exiting the physical world. “Wait, wait, hang on Pete, give me a minute man; this shit is nervous. Before we get started I’ve got a few thousand questions. What the hell happened; so what, I’m gone now?” I said. “Yea, physically the vessel that was you is gone but the thing you always were and still are remains and the people who were tuned in still feel you” he said. “What’s that” I asked. “Your frequency” he said.

Memory, love, connection, these are compatible frequencies. When someone you love crosses your mind and you feel the sense memory of them you’re tuning into their frequency; their essence. When you experience the memory of someone whose crossed over to the other side; that is you tuning-in their frequency. Shrouded in the clouded mysteries of a living being frequency remains. We are all what we always were; Star Children in the ether; passing on knowledge, experiences and forgiveness. The universe is one big radio transmitter/receiver and all self-aware beings have a unique frequency; that is what you knew as identity” he said.

Star Child; I like that. So, again, what the hell happened?” I said. “Bear; he said; big sucker too. It was an epic struggle but your number was up; you never had a chance. It was your time.” “I don’t remember that. How did it go?” I said. “ Well, let’s just say for now you don’t want to become part of the 20,000 calories a day a Bear needs as it prepares for hibernation. Humans, give or take for size and density, are about 80,000 calories. So you passed on four days worth of life for that Bear. You always said you wanted to come to your end fighting a bear and if you’d have stayed in Oakland we would not have been able to oblige. But, since you moved to where the Bears are, we thought why not, and anyway, we aim to please when we can. It all just sorta worked out. Yea, got you at the garbage can. It was cinematic. You can watch the thing later” he said.

I’ll answer some of your questions” he said; and began to speak. “Wait; I haven’t asked them yet” I said. “I can understand them without you telling me. Its one of the psychic abilities that comes with our superhuman intelligence coupled with our inherent childlike naiveté. It’s similar to the Martian ability to GROK that Heinlein wrote about in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. You’ll catch on. It’s actually the same power we all had on earth; a power all there still have. You see; the things we think, the things we want, we can do them or not; but we can’t hide them. Our desires are naked and illuminated.

“We go through life thinking we can perform actions while hiding a competing narrative in our heads; but this garbles the frequency transmissions. There’s so much chatter in life that fact gets lost but we truly know another by knowing what they want and that power is available to anyone who can look past the noise. That problem does not exist here. These are the quiet days loud with implications in this thinnish unseen film of oneness waiting to burst the chrysalis in a molecular movement. If it makes you more comfortable you can ask” he said.

Now I appeared to be in a screening room worthy of Francis Ford Coppola with about 100 over-sized reclining leather seats, a private luxury theater you find in very wealthy homes. My angel-headed hipster guide handed me a huge box set of DVD and a remote control. “This, he said with a wry smile; is your life. You and some of the rest of us including those in the film who are with us will review the thing with you. You can hit pause anytime and explain yourself should you so wish. Witnesses can also interrupt at any time and have a Q&A. It’s just like Shakespeare said: “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts” he said.

So, what was all that bizarre shit I saw just before the rainbow flash” I said. “That was the epicenter of your delusions extinguishing“ he said. “There are a few things I might like to re-shoot” I said. “Life is not a movie where you can re-shoot every scene until you get it just the way you want it; but rather a Play, where each moment is about truth, real and spontaneous and can not be altered. The world where you seek to undo the mistakes that you made is different from the world where the mistakes were made. You are now at the crossing and you want to choose. But there is no choosing there; there’s only accepting. The choosing was done a long time ago.” he said. I was cool in the pocket but the hardest thing to do is control excitement without killing it so I just grabbed my soul psyche and hung on.

Here you and your friends and anyone else who would like to sit in and watch your life spend about four hours a day just watching. You can stop, fast forward or go back and repeat each scene over and over if you like and you may explain your motivations; everything you ever did or said will be exposed, revealed and tested. It’s the boxing ring of life” he said. “This; is perfect” I said. “You are the hero of our own movie.. We are all referred to here as hero’s. We say that knowing we have all fought an epic battle and all of us wishes to be heroic” he said.

So, I watch others lives once I’m through with mine?” I said. “You may choose from a catalog of every person who ever lived, Michelangelo, Aristotle, Muhammad Ali, Castro, Alexander, Genghis Khan; anyone. A lot of guys are waiting for Hugh Hefner. Also ancestors are big requests, or even better some say; your future progeny. Here is where we see into the future; it’s all been fated”. he said.

You know we sent prophets with the message but you kept killing them so we stopped. We sent John Lennon back with the song “Imagine” trying to hip you to the fact that there is no heaven or hell but, well you know the rest. “Lennon, huh” I said. “Yea, we reincarnated him. He used to be an African Lion and we reanimated him as a Beetle and sent him back. It’s a perk very few indulge but he was rather special” he said.

Here is something you may enjoy. We have synthesized the DNA of over a trillion hero’s and cloned them, so to speak, on a tab of Owsley” he said. “You mean Orange Sunshine?” I said. “Yes, he’s here; dying to meet you” he said. “You mean Augustus Owsley Stanley III, the first underground chemist to mass produce high-quality LSD in the 1960s?” I said. “Yes, his orange sunshine LSD combined with the spliced DNA of the hero you choose will allow you to do, be and experience the real feelings of anyone; live their life for a time and any moment in their life that you choose. We call it star fucking. For reasons we’ve yet to fully understand many folks want to experience the suffering of Jesus and Mandela” he said.

Come along; let me introduce you to the equipment. Watching one’s life can be very disconcerting for some. So, we have a MASH unit on hand along with grief counselors and Sisyphus; a drug we can inject intravenously to treat major freak-outs” he said. “Why Sisyphus” I said.In Greek mythology Sisyphus was a king punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever. We think its àpropos for the experience we call life” he said.

She was a weirdly beautiful woman machine, looking somewhat like R2D2 from Star Wars, and reacted like a Terry Gilliam contraption in a Monty Python skit; a maze network of gears and wires. She had knobs on her chest, the kind you tune in like a radio, with a large red button in the middle of her perfect breasts. Her eyes upon activation became the movie screens through which one watched their movie. “You just plug-in here” he said. “What is this thing?” I said. “This is the switchboard of the universe” he said. “What’s the red button for” I said. “That’s our default rescue clip. If the hero gets overwhelmed by self-loathing from some particularly dicey section of their video; wherein they’ve done something really awful and begin to cry or moan, we instruct them to hit the red button and the current default rescue clip plays” he said.

What plays are real-time images seen through the eyes of a child in the worst place in the world where people are doing the worst things to each other; a place that has come as close as a human being could get to abandoning his humanity. By viewing this, by seeing real caused suffering, relative to ones own, it elevates the suffering of the hero. The rescue tape changes from time to time depending on where in the world the most awful shit is going down but we’ve yet to find anything worse than the Congo. Five million people have died there in 15 years. One in 6 kids doesn’t live to see the age of five. The so-called Democratic republic of the Congo has almost no functioning state security apparatus. There are regions in the country where two out of three women have been raped. It’s an incredibly broken, needy part of the world and there almost no international relief agencies with balls enough to work there. This is the world some see everyday” he said.

Say, sorry bout the bad language earlier. I was a bit freaked out” I said. “No worries; we believe that a word in and of itself is not good or bad” he said. “Really; even cunt” I said. “Yes; even cunt. It’s the intention that matters. We got that from Emmanuel Kant; would you like to do a hit of Kant” he said. So, 4 hours a day. What about the other twenty hours” I said. “There really isn’t any time; it’s all an illusion. We use 4 hours to give some context to the new arrivals since they are freaked out already and we want to give them something they can relate to. As to the rest of your infinite time you may do whatever you please with whoever you choose for as long as you like. There are no compulsory directives, no needs, no commands and no being may tell another what to do. You’ll never age or get sick and you’ll never die. We’ve set you into your imagined body at its prime, not that the vessel matters, but again; just trying to help you adjust” he said.

Each one of us is endowed with our own complex psycho-emotional constitution with the spiritual wisdom of a philosopher. Yet you may or may not be surprised how few lives are worth a look. The math of life boils down to answering the question; am I going to be the commodity people want me to be or am I going to do the things that interest me. The former has a real riptide to it and so is compelling but all the music, all the magic and all the mystery; is in the later. The revelation that genius giving birth to ideas and ambition, crystallizing into action, just scared some folks. The best of us chose right livelihood; finding in the end that the ordered life just didn’t contain enough magic in it. What was also one of the important similarities of an interesting life was holding the belief that not one drop of self-worth depended on any other beings acceptance of them” he said.

What about the truly evil fuck’s; the irredeemable; like mass shooters” I said. “They are inverted star fuckers. They study everyone from Columbine on, try to top it in body count and or showmanship. From suicidal idealization grows the delusion of grandeur; from the wish to kill yourself grows the wish to kill as many people as possible. With immortality on the line it doesn’t matter if they’re complete strangers; the goal is to expire in a chaos of their own creation with them selves the only one in control, their everlasting infamy insured by the videos, the “legacy tokens”; the coded public farewells they leave behind. Mass shooters want release, transport, escape. It’s not a desire for death. They go elsewhere” he said.

What about ISIS; the head hackers” I said. “They are our version of cancer. None ever make it here; they dissolve en route; vanish into the ash can of infinity. Some slip through on a technicality but explode en route. We wipe up the goo from the portal module and then break for a drink and a smoke; the mess they leave smells awful” he said. “What about Hitler; suicides” I said. “They never make it here either. They disappear on the ephemeral plane after they do the deed and never evolve to the hereafter. They essentially, upon expiration by their own hand, resign from the human race and hero status” he said.

So what’s the deal with religion” I said. “We create our own realities. Those fantasies, like religion, are all two-dollar smokescreens that distract us; preventing us from asking the really important questions and we agree because the reality we create is too hard..Religion like most ideologies is a delivery system to get your money and stop you from free thought by using fear. Fear of the unknown mostly; the worst and most effective kind of fear. All the prepackaged belief systems that tell you to suspend reason and buy-in on faith are bullshit. Brother Bill Mar was right on that one. there is no heaven, no hell; only purgatory” he said. “So, what about JFK; who killed him and why?” I said. “That, we get that one a lot; Oliver Stone had that one nailed in his film JFK.” he said.

As I settled in to watch my movie one thing unspoken became implicit; that there was no right or wrong good or bad; everything was good since what was considered bad directed our attention to some error in our thinking system that needed fixing; ergo; it’s all good. What became clear as we watched my movie was it wasn’t the big things that mattered since many outside forces took part in and influenced my decisions. It was the little things that mattered. How I reacted in times of moral dilemma; conundrums like the acute stress of the fight or flee response. These were character defining moments that everyone seemed to be interested in. Did you freeze, cower and hide, run in fear or fake a “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up act” or did you spread your wings and soar like a hawk.

Most important of all, what everyone zeroed in on, was how did you act when you had power. Peter said Abe Lincoln had it just right when he said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” So, to test someone quickly the audience would ask to fast forward the video through the executive summary and watch how the person reacted when power was handed to them.

After a while I asked Peter; “So what’s the point of all this” I said. “There is no point; he said. This is the culmination, the redemption or repudiation of your life. At our noblest, we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives. And to know that if you ransacked the archives of the redeemed you would uncover tales of moral squalor quite beyond the merely appalling. Reviewing your life will have a twofold effect. One, to make you more compassionate and sympathetic of yourself and increase your empathy toward and for others. Empathy is really important. Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential. And two; this will inform how you go forward from here. Remember the only judge here is you. It’s your self you have to be proud of in, and after, life” he said.

So, if I could send a message back to my beloved brothers and sisters still in the game what would be most helpful” I said. “We can arrange that but we can’t assure you anyone will listen. It’s the understanding that life is not going to take you back. You are the world you have created. And when you cease to exist, this world that you have created will also cease to exist. But for those with the understanding that they’re living the last days of the world, death acquires a different meaning. The extinction of all reality is a concept no resignation can encompass. And then, all the grand designs and all the grand plans will be finally exposed and revealed for what they are. The hardest thing is to transition into the realization that life will not take you back” he said.

Anything else” I said. “I mean what’s the secret Pete”. “Couple o’ things. If you listen to yourself when at your most vulnerable you’ll hear the truth. When you first wake in the morning after being comatose for hours your brain pushes what’s necessary to know to the front and its right there if you listen and most importantly act on it. If you’ve done something wrong; fix it. A good person is not defined by never doing wrong but by feeling bad when they do something wrong. That and always ask yourself; is what I say and believe about myself consistent with my actions “ he said. “That’s it” I said. “Pretty much, that, and you could also add; watch your diet” he said.

American Man

“Ain’t got nobody; that I can depend on”. – Santana – No One To Depend On

In the wake of Robin Williams demise a scene from Oliver Stone’s film Platoon came to mind. Charley Sheen’s character Chris, fresh from the world and struggling mightily to hack his way through the dense jungle of Vietnam with a machete, unaccustomed to the heat and stress, passes out. Willem Defoe’s character Sargent Elias revives him and advises with the line; “you’re humping too much gear troop”. Those words and their meaning show a metaphor for the life of American men; more so for men than women, since we are protectors; down to our ID. While women have no less than a half-dozen friends to phone and commiserate with when they are having a bad day; all my brothers and the angst shared, hurting real bad inside from existential loneliness specific to men, cover it up.

So brothers; be careful how much emotional baggage you upload; we don’t download it; we hold it in. At some point we reach our limit. Once we hump too much angst our falling out can easily find us sitting next to Robin Williams with a pen knife in our hands and a belt around our neck; or, like Phillip Seymour Hoffman; a needle in our arm; and who after all wants that? 

Some say we are selfish and think of ourselves first; never realizing that by using our inbred survival apparatus, keeping ourselves safe first; we stay strong in order to protect the pack. Like Sheen’s Chris, by carrying too much emotional baggage and falling out, we can no longer be of help to anyone else in the clan, and another warrior must stay behind to tend to us; further weakening the tribe. Like the surgeon too emotionally involved begins to succumb to his compassion and sees the humanity of the body under the sheet instead of the disease ravaging it; he soon falls apart.

Dogs and Lion go off alone when hurt to either heal and return to the pack or pride in their role of protector, provider and pro-creator. Dogs, so not to burden the master, die nobly; silent and alone; as does the Lion, who, once mortally wounded, draws a circle around himself with his own blood to attract the hyenas that will pick up the scent, come a cruising and tear him apart; an act of samurai seppuku, suicide; just like Robin Williams.

Men are forced out of the pride like young Lions as soon a their nut sacks drop to face the world alone. For men, masculine maturity is a lonely thing to own; for men maturity and despair go together. The isolation of masculinity is merged with much iconography, the cowboy, the astronaut, the gangster; almost ever hero in the past fifty years has been a figure of loneliness. Current pop culture is even more extreme; it celebrates not only the lonely man; it despises men in groups. Like every Judd Aptow film, men in group friendships are depicted as idiots. While American men struggle to overcome the mental cholesterol buildup of the psychic toxins of divorce; women simply switch the channel to Oprah. Men hold back releasing and sharing their pain; we are taught to hold our angst stoically, to keep it close, to keep us sharp; where we gotta be.

Niobe Way, professor of applied psychology at New York University and the author of 2011’s Deep Secrets; Boys, Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, has peered into the chasm under boys and young men and found emptiness to be at the heart of what is called the “boy crisis”. “We have all these boys with so much to give, so much love, so much for them to offer the world” she says. Becoming a man means leaving behind your family and your friends and striking out on your own, and therefore growing up means shedding connections. For Way, the transition from boyhood into manhood is a transition into isolation.

This critical disconnection has costs. Way’s research shows that the male suicide rates correlate precisely with the loss of friendships. At age nine the suicide rates are the same for boys and girls. Between ten and fourteen, boys are twice as likely to kill themselves. Between fifteen and nineteen they are four times as likely. From twenty to twenty-four; five times. Masculine maturity is a lonely thing to process; and this isolation runs contrary to male biology. Men, every bit as much as women, require connection for basic happiness. “men come into the world with this empathetic, rational need and they are treated as if they don’t have it”. Way says. In periods of vulnerability the male suicide rate spikes. During the most recent recession the suicide rate for men grew at four times the rate for women. Divorced men kill themselves nearly 2.5 times as often as married men while there is no difference in the rates between divorced and married women.

The contempt for male friendship is a cultural failure on an epic scale. Without friendship life simply isn’t worth much. Friendship is essential not just for a personal sense of well-being but also for society in general. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle prized it more than justice. “When men are friends, they have no need of justice, while when they are just they need friendship as well, and the truest form of justice is thought to be a friendly quality”.

For all the loss we’ve suffered from the absence of folk heroes from Belushi to Ledger to Hoffman and now Williams, just maybe, if boys who become men were not conditioned to exemplify the god damn Marlboro man, and not mocked for our friendships, and thus had friendships to turn to like women do; well you know the rest.

So, next time you think to criticize men for being selfish and putting themselves first; remember we have to keep ourselves emotionally safe; if we hump too much emotional gear we’ll fall out and be unable to protect the tribe. We’re not being cold, aloof, narcissistic or afraid of intimacy, nor do we lack empathy and compassion for your miseries and needs; we’re not being selfish. We put ourselves first and support our male protective shell as survival apparatus because men carry that aforementioned burden, that, and we know; we’re all we’ve got.

Vendetta

“I watched with glee while your kings and queens, fought for ten decades; for the gods they made. I shouted out, who killed the Kennedy’s, when after all; it was you and me.” – Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil

Satan

Nubile girls at my gym, ready for marriage and lusting after marry me bodies, bounce rhythmically on treadmills while ponytails bob symmetrical figure eights; their gaze transfixed on home makeover reality shows, remodeling porn depicting fascinating renovations of imagined hope chest packaged dreams that they feel down deep in the canal of their craving; right down to the china, silverware and crystal.

The flat screen that resides over my StairMaster projects CNN. At the ready stands a flawless little creäture of desirous adoration; her scimitar curves accentuated by arms akimbo; eye candy with meticulously quaffed hair and Oil of Olay pure skin looking like she’s been polished each morning by a rotary buffer is narrating the day’s top meat grinder events with a smile as blasé as a weather gal describing a perfectly turned spring day in San Francisco.

She flash cuts to Beebe Netanyahu, a real yahoo and Führer of the new Nazi’s regurgitating the same moral equivalency cold cuts he normally slings with the drone of a lobotomized robot; laced over the podium like a tailor with a case of workbench back; his eyebrows drag his forehead down to meet his weak fey chin; he wears the expression of a mid-career lighthouse keeper; one who has seen a lot of shipwrecks and expects more. His performance is for the cameras; not the back rooms of atherosclerotic, hypocritical, cigar chewing, hopeless, larded adults; infracted vultures turning babies into scattered fragments from the explosive shells, bombs, missiles and bullets they reap profits from. Decayed, balding, cheese breath Netanyahu lays it on us like a great soggy lukewarm mother’s poultice.

The Germans had Hitler, the Russians, Stalin; we were graced with baby Bush the Shrub for a weary time. Some say he was a good president and I suppose if you rate him on his responsibility for body count, confirmed kills; they’d be right. The Palestinians, a people left more alone than any in memory have Hamas; living dead men, zombies after the apocalypse; modern-day Charles Mason’s stuck in the lust for blood oblivious of any grey tones. Each side’s argument seems to be saying “my enemy is so vicious he has forced me to lose my soul” and no matter how many babies we turn to goop; our cause is just.

How easy would be to let the beast out; the one unleashed by the Capo di tutti capi of demons; hate; that most dangerous of motivations that emanates from within out; always just there, beneath the surface of everyday normalcy; our own personal Mephistopheles; master of our negative light, Satan’s worker, agent of Lucifer; where promises of heaven turn into private hell when Beelzebub nudges those already in danger to be damned into that Faustian bargain where we wager our souls on the notion that we are right and have been wronged. He circles the earth in a dark cloud settling down occasionally in men’s hearts in places like Gaza, Cambodia and Rwanda.

How easy would it be to release humanity, to pull the trigger, pull the pin, loose the spear, open the bombay doors, let the fucking rice boil over in Chinatown; to spill blood that never washes off like there are gooks in the wire and let the ID feast on adrenaline and danger and let the taste of sweat and blood and heroism and righteous victory trump all other pleasures; where all compassion is lost in a Howitzer’s cloud. That’s what spare-ribbed Palestinian boys slinging rocks at jolly green giants with guns wishing they were hand grenades; cannon fodder ripe for turning into shrapnel; feel.

It’s perhaps why I let my demon out for regular walks in the garden. He is pulsing forth just now out my finger tips and on to this imaginary paper. So, every year on my birthday, just about here, I forgive every transgression my friends have laid on me over the past year; blow out the pipes, crack the neck and wipe the slate clean; start fresh. It lightens the burden I and all men carry and keeps the demon at bay. Where it not for my tradition, the worlds ongoing shit storm of hatred, the current featured attraction being the Israeli Palestinian cream de la cream of vendettas, could easily metastasize and visit itself in my heart. Hate and revenge is an insidious intoxicating virus.

No one cares any longer what your ends may be fellas; your means to your ends have left us bleeding from the eyes; making the gladiator games of the Coliseum seem like a little girls backyard tea party. To turn away or be anesthetized, that’s our choice; well, as Willy Shakes Mercutio screamed, while dying in Romeo and Juliet from Capulet and Montague madness feud, “a plague on both your houses”.

These two sides started this caged death match the year I was born; sixty-six years ago. Christ fellas, learn how to have an argument and move the fuck on. Package all that unlimited passion and send the word out for the Levant’s Gandhi, Christ, King or Mandela; and when he shows up; try not to shoot him down like we did Jack and Bobby and Martin. Here’s hoping you find your holy man peace maker. In the meantime pick a date and on that date once a year step back and forgive.

Murph The Surf

“We got a thousand points of light; for the homeless man. We got a kinder, gentler, Machine gun hand”. – Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young

Mid July; the yearly Rodeo hits town coinciding with a parade down Main Street that draws vacationers from the tri-state area like we’re giving away sweet salt water taffy. The humid air takes on the consistency of wild mountain honey; still the multitudes descend; filling this playground Mecca with joy seeking madcap tourists to the brim. Until the pressure becomes really intense they normally never make a move; but now, like lemmings, they apply the pressure on themselves, to be seen having that good time, as if addicted to their own adrenaline; performing the paint by numbers recreation provided for their delectation with zeal so pronounced you’d think they were being paid. Now, the day after the nights before, this tiny Wisconsin town, the latest stop on my personal carousel; exhales like a smoker. It breathes in the tourists on Friday and blows them out every Sunday night, emptying after the Bacchanalia; the rat scramble to exodus Eden ensues.

News reports show an unlucky few have left hair, teeth and eyeballs scattered on the concrete highway intersections that at other times of the year would be laughable to argue call for a traffic light in a two traffic light town. Burgers were burnt on grills, flags waved ubiquitously and Nobel’s horrific invention caused the color bombs to burst in air. Now squealing no more the hordes lately laid prostrate for patriot days scream; arm-ageddon-outta-here. In the rush to get back to the rush some leave their skin and bones behind with their money.

To avoid the syrupy display of Americana Murph and I head over to Big Dick’s Saloon and antiquarian for some billiards and a few cold ones in the private back room that always seems reserved for us since no one else is ever there. Big Dick’s note-worthy claim to fame, most prominently proclaimed on hand carved wood placards, is the fact that J.F.K. once took a squirt in the men’s room. At noon on a Thursday the bar is sprinkled with tattered people who look like they spend every weekend prowling the demolition derby circuit; the well-worn gaggle of female barflies must have been ordered up from central casting; interchangeable with any other gin mill in the world; they sport pock-marked downs syndrome faces with all life force extinguished, sucked out like from a vacuum cleaner hose, quaffing draft beer in dainty sips; mainlining misery at mid-morning on a weekday.

Murph the Surf, martial artist, motorcycle rider, country gentleman, father to giant offspring and my back woods Paul Bunyan brother in arms, having this place clocked for decades, became my consigliere when I arrived and sympathetically shepherded me down the right corridors when I showed up lost in this dull waste land wilderness. He is as imperturbable as a whale, as hard as Chinese arithmetic and all heart. During our weekly pool and bull shooting sessions in our pleasure bunker; our weekly quixotic Salon; he burns with the intellect of a poet scholar. Today he’s particularly enlightened; pontificating around the fascination of women and the differences between the sexes.

Before I could effect a rescue of my prized cue stick Murph summoned forearms veined like surgical tubes and like a dancer tripping the light Balanchine fandango, turning cartwheels across the floor, balanced on the twinkle toes of a mountain goat dancing on a thin edge, crashed the ivory orb into the pack with the speed of an angry moonshiner with muscles straining as thick and sinewy as dock ropes, huge Mickey Rourke muscles that make his upper back fan out like manta ray wings. He slams the tip of my Balabushka into the ivory cue ball affecting a sledge-hammer break; pin-balling the spheres in causally connected harmonic waves; never slowing his rap … Women he says, being gatherers, were required to look closely at their work and so evolved into looking each other in the eyes when they converse. Further, he posits, men, 600,000 years ago, as we Pithecanthropus passed into the hand-axe culture, were genetically pre-disposed to look out and around, to survey our environs for the random saber-toothed tiger creeping up from behind or the manic charge of a wild-eyed mastodon, and so, conversely, men look away when we speak to each other.

Further, as the balls roll into the pockets… Men he says, dominate through physicality, and thus have mercy; where women do not. When it’s over for a woman, it’s over. You’re not getting an appeal. Yet we are similar in that both
have at least two faces, one mounted behind the other or in the case of deranged multiples, overlaid like an onion. The front one sculpted by what John Paul Sartre lamented; “hell is other people”, meaning the signal vibrations we send out as a result of being an ego encapsulated hominid are interpreted by others as our persona; who they think we are. They send those messages back to us and, in the infinite wisdom of human nature, the wish to assimilate and fit in; we receive the ping-pong message and unconsciously act out those wishes. Ergo hell is other people because they cause us to act the way they see us and thus prevent us from acting out our natural personas; being our true selves. The second face, the one we see when we look in the mirror and as we all know it’s the mirror that matters, is the one we use to try to bring about our own hopes while we struggle with the mean nature of a world that won’t sit still long enough to be seen clearly and allow us to make a connection.

I’m not actually getting much of this since by now, after a few trips to the bar, a few pulls on the whisky flask and a few hits on a Dobbin, I feel like I’ve imbibed a Vicodin the size of a hockey puck and that’s not altogether untrue. Murph has reached what Japanese Buddhists call Satori; sudden enlightenment and a state of consciousness attained by intuitive illumination representing the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism; in my case it’s simply the relief from emotional pressure that narcotics provide. I’m so lit by the time the quarters have run out and no more mead can be poured in and no more weed quaffed I become no longer interested in the answers; my obsessive compulsion has turned me into a Sarah Palin no nothings; not just not knowing the answers but no longer even understanding the questions.

I head for the bar where the TV burns in the background showing proof of life for the 50,000 children of the Americas lost in the wilderness of North America. Some manic crowd of frothing white people are babbling incoherently, waving poorly made signs and shouting what seem to be epitaphs at a large multi-wheeled monstrosity of a bus. As I absorb the cacophony from these right-wing fear machine zealots, the lynch mob bully minority portrayed on CNN as the caterwauling xenophobic’s they are, spewing brown boy’s go home tirades upon helpless, exhausted, scared children; I fear the rest of the world will interpret the ululating jingoistic hostility chants of U.S.A, U.S.A to mean, in their case, the United States of Ass-hats; hyena headed mongrels with no prepubescent girls to terrorize at the gates of abortion clinics since they’ve all been shuttered; portraying Americans to the world as selfish, narcissistic, greedy, cheap and in a word bullies. Proof, I fear, we’re not far removed from that early morning on November 22, 1963 when Jack turned to Jackie and said; “we’re headed into nut country”.

Why we care more for animals than people I never understood. Awwww’ing like modern-day Francis of Assisi, we spent $6.2 billion on grooming and treats for our pets in 2012. If only these kids fleeing extreme poverty and violence had four legs instead of two and were hairier, cuddlier and cuter. Jordan, a country the size of Indiana has taken in 2,070,973 registered Palestine refugees in ten camps, provided 173 schools, with 116,953 pupils, two vocational and technical training centers, 24 primary health centers, eight community rehabilitation centers and 12 women’s program centers and Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water resource availability, per capita, in the world.

But my country, the greatest I’m continually told, won’t find room at the inn for our neighbors to the south. Sorry kids, instead of pausing for air our fury sniffing of those railroad track lines of your coke or taking the profit motive away from the drug cartels that have chased you away from home by legalizing it; we blew the bread that would have cost rearranging the sands of Arabia for the last ten years with the bombs supplied by Dick Cheney and friends. Besides, Israel is presently turning kids your age into bouillabaisse so we have to change the channel; sorry but the first rule of media is; if it bleeds; it leads.

Well, time surely to stagger across the street to the only gourmet restaurant within a hundred miles and intake some banana bread French toast made from scratch by the blessed and enlightened soul who open it after a stint in culinary school; Freud/Jung, Nature/nurture, crazed whack jobs in Technicolor, blood and guts; enough. Hey Murph; pass the maple surpel.

Xenophobes

“And they don’t quite seem to understand; the way the hammer shapes the hand” – Casino Nation – Jackson Browne

Immigration Nation

Barbecues crackle from grease bubbles that drop and crystallize; looking like broken glass. The heat wafting above makes waves in the air like over a radiator. The aroma of fricasseed flesh wafts sour weenie smoke up and down the lacing of the shore.

Suddenly the world outside my writer’s window erupts into electric splinters as the patriotic bombs explode in the cloudless sky, showering the trees with a million tiny neon bulbs; the preparatory whistling sounds imitate a mortar attack. Swooping strands of light rising, rising, rising until they merge with the stars and make a bridge right up to the heavens; Boom! Boom! Boom!

Anything with a spine has fled; hunkered down and shivering in the forest while the fireworks light the sky in psychedelic color movie joy. While my typer and me seek only the transcendental the tourist’s scurry madcap in howls of manic laughter across the sacred lake. They seek a red, white and blue somatic experience; weekend warriors begging sensual unfolding after the tightly wound city work a day weeks fall away. They are here for hurry up fun and love-making that intensifies the sensations.

Two years in I guess I’ll have to cop to being a local. I suppose I’m in good company. Hunter Thompson and Ken Kesey moved to the woods; Papa Hemingway pulled over to the shoulder as well; he quit the whole damn program for the island of Cuba; you can’t get more removed from the noise than an island. I’m ensconced in my own Walden Pond like a modern-day Henry David Thoreau, the transcendentalist who begged a cabin from Emerson, a couple of miles from town, for his reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. He said he wanted to sort out the wheat from the chaff and suck the marrow out of life; to escape the wages of fame, that industrial disease to creativity; that all-encompassing external experience that often excludes intimacy.

Meanwhile an ill wind blows foul and Gods flesh is crawling. If he could see and hear the antics of this cast of heretics in Marietta, Ca, American flag-waving protesters, lathered horses in the home stretch, forcing busloads of migrants to leave, on the fourth of July, a fear gripped gang of xenophobic’s descending on scared, hungry, tired children of the America’s; he’d never stop throwing up.

These are so-called Christians, sans the compassion and empathy, which is at the core of their cult teachings. They wave brightly colored over-sized American flags; symbols that ring like cymbals; “all foreigners go home”; accompanied by a hate filled chorus of U.S.A., U.S.A; a happy fourth welcome to North America for children of the Americas tougher than the violence and poverty they have escaped; asking only to be part of the American dream; dumbstruck with fear at the vicious reception at the barricades of heaven.

We have seen this film before; the placard carrier’s hands forced into clenched fists to pummel the weak. They pledge allegiance to what the flag use to mean. Now, its “English only” as the legislated official language rails the Nativist; telling us all how we “must” speak, how we “must” dress, then, next surely, how they “must” think. The thought police aren’t far behind. Hell, they’re here now, making everyone the same like some insidious virus. Where have we seen this kind of group think before? Sieg Heil. Shut up and sing. I pledge allegiance. My country right or wrong; I pledge allegiance; love it or leave it. I pledge allegiance; or the terrorists win.

A young man in Mexico, poor enough to live in a dirt floor hut, fiercely religious, speaks no English, crawls across an imaginary line in the desert in the dead of night; to OZ; to labor bent over in a strawberry field picking my food for sub-standard wages, no health care, no other kind of care, no safety codes, no rules that favor him. He pays taxes to an invisible hand every payday for which he receives nothing. He is reviled.

One day men with American flags festooned on their drab military style uniforms approach; they call out “Criminal”. He looks around to see who they speak of as their well fed white knuckles grip his arm. He is going home. Migrants in Mexico who risk the road to Xanadu are folk heroes to those they leave behind. They are urban mythologies. Those that hire them, the Patrons, rich and powerful when weighed against their brown Mexican sweat, are the beneficiaries.

Closed borders did not make America. Borders open to young men and women everywhere did. Is it a crime to cross that line; to feed hungry children or wives or mothers or only to hope to improve one’s life? Shame on the heretics of the American dream and legacy; an American is not defined by which side of a line he is on.

In Martin Scorsese’s historical epic film “Gangs of New York”, the war in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen for cultural dominance was fought between the Nativist, “born right” (in America) and the foreign hoards (immigrants). The present day debate on the “illegal”, an unfortunate term, smells like the stench that reeked in the five corners section of New York City at the dawn of America.

Take to the streets. Strike! Tear down the fences. Build bridges instead.

“Inscription on the Statue of Liberty”
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

 

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