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, philosophical essays, poetry and prose are funny, insightful and heartrending, 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 precise imagery, clear, sharp language, clarity of expression and meticulous visual images in musical phrase. – Gino Rossi

 
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America Me

Yes, we wander and we work, in your crops and in your fruit, like the whirlwinds on the desert, That’s the dust bowl refugees. – “Dust Bowl Refugee” ~ Woody Guthrie

A young man in Mexico,
poor enough to live in a hut
with a dirt floor,
fiercely religious,
speaks no English,
crawls across an imaginary line
in the Desert
in the dead of night
to OZ .

He labors 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.
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 that 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 Nativists,
“born right” (in America)
and the foreign hoards (immigrants).

The present day debate on the “illegal”,
an unfortunate term,
smells like the stench in the 5 corners of New York City
at the dawn of America.

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

IMAGINE

“Knock, knock, knocking on heavens door” – Bob Dylan

For Lisa; whose ancient shaman soul urges me to BE LOVE and thus moves me farther on.

The latest revelation in science, which until now believed that all things had matter, is the proof that consciousness came before matter; before the big bang. Quantum physicists working in the new darling of the human potential movement, quantum mechanics, have discovered what the mystics have known forever. Science terms it Nonlocality; meaning consciousness or communication without signals, without matter.

Many quantum physicists site Martin Luther King eradicating, to large degree, racism in America; Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu freeing a continent and Mahatma Gandhi’s triumph over the greatest power the world had ever seen with nothing more than ideas of possibilities, thoughts; as examples of Nonlocal consciousness.

Brain science now tells us that our ideas, our thoughts, send electronic signals in our brain via neurons that attach to receptors. If our thoughts land on the same receptors often enough patterns emerge resulting in conditioned responses. We become what we think.

We don’t need to go forward to know this new truth. The 100th Monkey Theory explained it to science many decades ago. Japanese monkeys had been observed in the wild for over 30 years. In 1952, on a remote island, scientists provided monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkey liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes but they found the dirt unpleasant. An 18-month-old female found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers too.

Various monkeys, before the eyes of the scientists, gradually picked up this cultural innovation. Between 1952 and 1958 all the young monkeys learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. On an autumn morning in 1958, 99 monkeys had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. By the end of that day the hundredth monkey learned to wash its potatoes. By that evening almost every monkey in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them.

The significance of this phenomenon is that scientist on other islands hundreds of miles away recorded at that very moment other colonies of monkeys they were observing also began washing their sweet potatoes. Thus, when a certain critical number achieves awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind; Nonlocal consciousness.

There is a point at which if only one more person tunes-in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone. When something becomes true for enough of us it becomes true for all of us.

This jibes with the concept of Jung’s collective unconscious and the biologists’ morphogenetic fields which offer parallel stories that help strengthen this strand of our imaginations. Archetypes, patterns, or fields that are themselves without mass or energy, could shape the individual manifestations of mass and energy. The more widespread these fields are, the greater their influence on the physical level of reality.

We sometimes mention the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon when we need supporting evidence of the possibility of an optimistic scenario for the future, especially a future based on peace instead of war. If enough of us will just think the right thoughts, then suddenly, almost magically, such ideas will become reality. This ideological breakthrough phenomenon, this spontaneous transmission of ideas posits the propagation of a paradigm shift.

So what shall we do now that we know we can have this profound effect just by wishing it to be so? Let’s start with the penultimate question. What is the meaning of life? Some say life has only the meaning we give it. True enough; but there’s a question that precedes it. What do we want? What do we all have in common; all six billion of us? What are we hoping for? Where are we collectively headed?

What all of us want and where we are surely going is to create our version of heaven on earth. We’ll get there; perhaps living in Kayaks if we do not stop raping this big blue ball and global warming swamps us all; but there we’ll get nonetheless.

So what’s the one thing we all could think, wish and hope for that would propel us towards this outcome; heaven on earth? Nothing would be more helpful than the elimination of violence. On the day the sun rises and sets on our planet without violence being visited on one sentient being we’ll be better than ½ ways there.

As far back as Christ who said “love thy enemy” we’ve heard the word. If God is love, and I’m not refereeing to the oft rendered version; an anthropomorphic deity hanging on a cross, but rather a man/woman entwined in higher love-making; that being the most pleasure we ever have and the closest to god we ever get, we can all be gods. And love is nothing if not non-violent.

Yet, since everyone’s vision of heaven on earth is different we’ll need one ground rule; everybody’s in; waps, spicks, niggers, kikes, krauts, fays, humpbacks, cripples and hair lips; everybody. We convert the work of millions toiling for the war machine whose tasks result in sending bullets towards bones into growing our organic food and converting all our dwellings to energy-efficient abodes. Yes, we can.

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
What you think about, you and we, become”.
Lao Tzu: Father of Taoism – sixth century B.C.

Intimate Strangers

Nick Masesso, Jr.

“She’ll change so suddenly; she’s just like mercury – She’s entwined in me, crazy as can be; yeah, but she’s all right with me“ – Mercury – Counting Crows

We met cute. I’d locked myself out of my apartment and if I’d a’ had a cell phone, which I do not, I wouldn’t have had the phone number to call for rescue anyway. So, by virtue of cosmic gamble, I walked east instead of west and knocked on the front door of the apartment two doors down from mine in my heavenly duplex complex. She answered the door cautiously, somewhat hiding at first behind some invisible worn-out wall of flimsy cardboard she’d erected to keep away those I suspect she thought might carry bad vibes. I scaled it in seconds.

She had a kind of dark hazy light around her that summoned something akin to the heroic in me and…

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Genie-us

“You are all a lost generation” – Gertrude Stein in conversation and epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

I wipe at the hot showers fog of soapy mist on the mirror of the medicine cabinet in the steamed bathroom that’s made my reflection almost invisible. It’s the same each morning; after having cleared that miasma vapor away it reveals my ripening. My skins as white as a cuttlefish bone from an epic long winter. The lack of sun has made my image nearly translucent. The medical term is seasonal affective disorder or SAD and maybe that’s the source of the depression that has the sink holding me up.
The tip of my index finger depresses the plastic nozzle atop the cylindrical can of Aramis; releasing a mist that doses my moist flesh; masking the pheromones that will later escape when my secreted fluids diffuse and mingle with whoever it might be tonight; coating our slippery tangled bodies locked in the frenzied obsession of a passionate lovers embrace.
I thought but didn’t much care that the toxic torrent unleashed, according to the latest scientific peer-reviewed report on global climate change, planetary warming that both arctic systems and coral reefs were already experiencing, the irreversible regime shifts from among other things, the atomizer’s chlorofluorocarbons propelling the liquid that covered my scent; or that my thoughtless gesture would, with a hundred other modern conveniences, be responsible for worldwide ecological collapse, famine, flooding and pestilence. I sent a silent apology to the remaining polar bears.
I gave the day away; dressed to attract and met the milky sky. Firing up my chariot I headed for the Kaffeeklatsch, downed a stab and kill and sped to the gym for an angry workout. I stopped off at the library to absorb a few more chapters of the manic rants and musings of Hunter Thompson’s canon and then uploaded some sustenance from the days blue plate special at the diner. The pool room closed at midnight. I was folding up my winnings when I realized the sips of Crown Royal from my secreted flask and the many rounds of Guinness had done their job.
Escaping the cool breath of wind from the street I passed into the local meat market; a hothouse of pheromones, testosterone and estrogen. Feeling the beast inside coiling as I pushed through the door of the roadhouse; floating as high as a monkey in a tree and content as a hog on ice; feeling holy. Stepping over the threshold breach gave way to an invisible curtain between two worlds; the outside, a Netherlands of normalcy with flocks of work-a-day sheep and herders bustling about; the inside a Fellini circus atmosphere that captivated my senses. The air reeked lust.
I felt that weird kind of adrenaline instinct that feeds on tension and high pressure as I clocked the strum and drang of the environs. I don’t know any of these actors so the image they are projecting back to me must be their favorite. The men fell about the place seemingly coordinated with the din of sound that passed for music; impersonating jokers, thieves, minstrels and madmen; their voices more brass than iron; a testosterone physicality overlaying the fervent messages they were broadcasting. The women wafted a scent with undertones of desperation, loneliness, uncertainly and mostly want, desire sharp enough to cut falling silk like a samurai sword. They were covered like an M&M in a thin candy coating of hope and optimism.
I sensed a desperate last call pre-dawn chaos enveloping the inhabitants; every soul recklessly humping the American dream as the juke box howled a bad noise mating call; the drugs kicked in. The Stones blasted Sympathy for the Devil with a fiendish intensity and the lights gave off a strange glow and vibration, the smell of stale beer provided the buzz kill. I was searching for the Holy Grail, a woman to share the secrets of my shattered soul, held together by scars and truth, to help me through the night and beat the devil in my head with a prosaic everlasting kiss.
She sat at the bar with a panther’s grace; her legs like pins encased in skinny jeans that appeared sprayed on; they jackknife provocatively on the bar stool like swizzle sticks. Her face could not hide the need to be taken and it made me fantasize a roaring wood fire in a dark night on some black sand beach fronting a lush green forest in Borneo where I took her like a Viking. She carried the scars of ancient wounds and instead of projecting defenses, sat reposed, like she’d already given in, like a mortally wounded lion that draws a circle around itself with its own blood waiting for a pack of hyena to catch the scent.
She said her mother had quit the Valium, said it made her too normal, no longer crazed and somehow this robbed her of her power. That was a red flag to be sure but her suppressed sexuality made me sweat like a wheel of cheese. “I didn’t see you there at first” I said. “I’m incognito” she said. “Beautiful things don’t try to be noticed” I said. “Want to get outta here?” The sky was white haze from the heavens to the lake that bordered the woods. The frozen moisture in the air sparkled like diamonds refracting and made dappled shadows flicker in the silvery half-light.
The all-night diner was right out of 1955 and like sex and pizza it’s hard to find a bad one; it had one of those open kitchen style layouts that hash joints of the era favored; designed for quick communication between the waitresses and the short-order cook. The chrome and neon sign flashed Open 24 Hours. The coffee cups were as thick as flowerpots and the waitress kept them filled to the brim with watery coffee from a plastic flip-top insulated pitcher she left on the table. A couple of hard eyed hooker’s were sprinkled in the drunken randy crowd; decompressing from a long and jangled night.
Maggie, our Moon faced hostess, shouted our orders to Peppy, the half-black half-Chinese madman with a spasmodic face twitch and a twirling metal spatula. “Adam and Eve on a raft for the lady; a cowboy with spurs for the gent” she yelled. For the uninitiated that’s poached eggs on toast for her and a western omelet with French fries for me. Pep nodded his approval and set to the task like he was made of mercury and had a black belt in jujitsu. His head spun about like a boat adrift from its moorings. He had the aggressive chemistry of a connoisseur of sharp knifed edge-work.
He held his hand aloft and towards me; opening it surreptitiously I spied a joint. He motioned me to the back and after excusing myself for a moment I met him at the dumpster that was as rancid smelling as a milk truck. Chatting him up as we passed the dubbin I discovered he was a triple Scorpio; a real character. He dressed like a crusty drifter recently stumbled out of a Hoover-Ville hobo-jungle. “You’ve got the moves Pep” I said. “All energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet” he said. Christ I thought, on top of everything else this man’s a mad poet.
He had long sinewy arms with a brawler jawbone and looked a burned out caricature of a Mexican Brando. His face had the scars of having been slashed and eyes like jellied fire with long blaze red hair as fine as corn silk. Just then some pals of Peppy roared up on Harley’s; a gang of Pit bull gladiators, muscle-bound weight lifters, cranked up drug enthusiasts that totally meshed with my karma. One humongous rat faced fellow had the look of having been left to snack on paint chips as a toddler; a lout of the first order having made lots of wrong turns and met many dead ends.
He gave me a sneer with angry eyes; a bête noire king hell speed freak as tightly wound as a spring inside the casing of a watch that made the adrenaline in my guts spin like a whirligig. The un-self aware un-self conscious type headed for a hellish descent into drugs, fugitive flight, prisoner status and finally dead man; jail, asylum, morgue; the usual.
Back at the table I found some preppy type vamping my girl who seemed in love with his own voice. He was working on a doctorate of some kind. “The age you are when you go to jail, fall in love or become famous is the age you remain” he said. “Sounds profound” I said. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom” He said. “Studying William Blake I see” I said.
Her place smelled of incense and scented candles; an angel on a ribbon hung from the armoires door and a fine porcelain Cupid with his feet crossed looked down on the swaying cherub. “I hate everyone who loves me” she said. “They seem to revel in showing me just how ugly they can be”. I wondered if I’d come home with a rock star; some celebrity I was too old to know about. They say there’s no one cooler in the pocket than me but at that moment I felt like a man without skin. The drugs were fading as I oriented myself to the moment. Apparently I’d invited a demon into my belly. We waggled and dangled for hours and hours like we were digging up trees, grass and flowers; finally I rolled over with a moan and a cough and she coiled up next to me dozing off.
Her remembrances come back in the smallest things. This morning it was from the sense memory of how her arm brushed against my torpid remains, still glistening in our sweat as it brushed against the hairs on my chest when she reached for the glass of ice water on the nightstand after we’d become one again, making love in zero gravity for the third time in the wee hours. This afternoon it was her voice hanging in the air in front of me; how she said Ti Amo with that voice that had a bit of a dusty road and a timbre so lush and velvety I could almost rest my head on it. Imagining her in those moments, for now anyway, is my new favorite way of getting lost.

Hatred Trumps Hope By Tom Shachtman

The American Prophet Who Predicted Trump

The uncanny insights (and incredible life) of the American longshoreman and political prophet. By Tom Shachtman

Whether or not Donald Trump knows it, he’s running his presidential campaign out of Eric Hoffer’s playbook. That would be The True Believer, published 65 years ago this spring, a book about mass movements. Hoffer’s big insight was that the followers of Nazism and Communism were essentially the same sort of true believers, the most zealous acolytes of religious, nationalist, and other mass movements throughout history.

In 1951, it was stunning to Americans to be told that ultra-right-wing Nazis and ultra-left-wing Communists—their recent enemies of World War II and current enemies in the Cold War—were, according to Hoffer, cut from the same cloth. “All mass movements,” he explained, “irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance.”

Hatred and hope were the most important lures, Hoffer contended, hatred much more than hope: “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”

Trump’s followers have responded most enthusiastically to the candidate’s diatribes against such devils as Mexicans and other “illegal immigrants,” Muslims of any stripe, unattractive or pushy women, clueless policy-makers, “loser” opposing candidates, and reporters who ask him other than softball questions.

The pollsters tell us that Trump’s followers share a decided affinity for authoritarianism, as well as beliefs that government causes more problems than it solves and that immigrants (and people with darker skins, and women) have stolen their jobs and their futures.

More: Trumpsters have little regard for facts that contradict their stances. Hoffer could have predicted this. “It is the true believer’s ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears’ to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.”

Hoffer described in detail who the true believers were: the frustrated, the disaffected, the dissatisfied with the status quo, those who put their faith in a leader promising simple yet radical solutions to their and society’s problems. “We join a mass movement,” Hoffer wrote, “to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.’

“Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the loss of faith in ourselves.

“All mass movements deprecate the present,” wrote Hoffer, “and there is no more potent dwarfing of the present than by viewing it as a mere link between a glorious past and a glorious future.” That’s what Trump is doing when he vows to “make America great again”—celebrating what was and will be, while denigrating what is.

Trumpsters are predominantly white, native-born American males who do not have college degrees, and are economically in the lower middle class rather than among the very poorest. Actually, in these ways they are more like Eric Hoffer than many other Americans. In a 1964 article, Hoffer identified himself and his fellow longshoremen as white men from poor backgrounds, with little education and no skills except for their willingness to do backbreaking manual labor, who “do not feel that the world owes us anything, or that we owe anybody—white, black, or yellow—a damn thing.”

Hoffer was the only child of Alsatian immigrants, born in the Bronx around the turn of the 20th century—sometimes he said 1898, at others, 1902—who grew up poor. When he was 5 he and his mother fell down a flight of stairs; she died and he went blind. His blindness prevented him from going to school, and upon regaining his sight at 15 he continued studying on his own until he was 18, when his father died. Using a small death award from his father’s union, Hoffer traveled to Los Angeles and in the 1920s became a day-worker and Skid Row denizen—reading voraciously in libraries between gigs—in the 1930s an itinerant agricultural field hand, and in 1943 a unionized San Francisco dockworker, a position he retained even after becoming a best-selling author, and until he reached mandatory retirement age in 1967.

He initially took that job on the docks to have more stability to write, but retained the wariness of the itinerant, knowing, as he told his first editor, that he must “guard against fear, self-righteousness, and wishful thinking, for these blunt the mind and the senses.” In the same vein, Hoffer chose not to read Freud, Marx, or other influential intellectuals—he hated intellectuals—so that he would not be swayed by their explanations and jargon. During his itinerant years he began jotting down his thoughts in 3-by-5 inch notebooks carried in his pockets and backpacks, which I was able to consult at the Hoover Institution for my 2011 biography, American Iconoclast: The Life and Times of Eric Hoffer.

Unlike Trump’s followers, Hoffer early on understood that “undesirables” were not the enemy. That revelation occurred in 1934, when as a transient fruit-and-vegetable picker he was swept up and placed in the El Centro camp at the edge of the southern California desert near the Mexican border, and for the first time had to co-exist with 200 other men. Prior to that, he considered himself “just a human being, neither good nor bad, and on the whole, harmless,” but after a month at El Centro he realized he belonged to “a certain type of humanity, the undesirables.”

Some were lame, some were foreign-born, some were tramps, some were much darker-skinned than the rest but, he concluded, all were the same as the “undesirables” who for generations had fled from Europe and Asia and became American pioneers, the people who for 300 years had built our farms and roads and cities and institutions.
Throughout the rest of his life, Eric Hoffer continued to venerate and celebrate the “undesirables” as America’s real founding fathers.