Noise

“For the most sensitive among us, sometimes the noise can just be too much.” – Jim Carrey – upon hearing of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The cross city bus clamors out a murderous seasick solo backed by an orchestral scrum of whizzing internal combustion engines in uproarious brawl spewing invisible air and ear pollution death while begging for second gear; both instruments of audio-olfactory destruction, an offense to the ear and nose from landlocked personal space-ships bumper to bumper on the narrow streets of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood; all, along with the antique streetcars sing out a cacophony of noise so disturbing I had to hold the phone, physically 1,500 miles away from the action, six inches from my ear.

Our story’s hero Jeff is laboring, careening up and down intensely inclined ski sloop streets chasing said bus while he screams into his cell phone at me “Man, the first thing you’d notice if you came back is the noise”. I tell him he’s preaching to the choir. The air in my environs of northern Wisconsin is so calm I can hear the sound of autumn leaves rustling along the well-kept lawns and iridescent blue birds singing their daily arias.

Writers flood into big cities, whether they know it or not, to be uncomfortable; since like the late, great Charles Bukowski opined “no one comfortable ever wrote anything worth a damn”. The city is life on steroids; it’s intensity keeping us all tense. The boulevard is a raging river of humanity and sometimes inhumanity. There is rarely a shortage of stimuli upon which to opine. Here the writers cup runneth over.

Our hero confides he’s been reaching back into his past to make that connection that sooner or later, sooner I think for some of us given recent societal developments, we all eventually make; that DNA linked memory to our roots. Jeff is currently covered by a warm blanket; surrounded by like-minded west coast social justice warriors – yet when looking back over his shoulder in contemplation of revisiting comrades from his mid-western past; he is floored, repulsed and catatonic over the addiction he sees in his childhood pals adherence to the new ersatz fascism; the redneck noise that is Trumpism.

In the same way it’s nearly impossible to escape the noise coming at us all like a Chinese parade, from eight different directions all at once; it’s the same for our natural inclination to decipher the content and arrange it in some assemblage of bite-size order. Is it as it seems? Is the new avalanche of information overwhelming our capacity to upload, sort-out and categorize it’s meaning and importance so we might get a handle on our collective future?

It can’t only be me and our hero who, overwhelmed by the noise, wish solace in heeding the wise voices from our past. Timothy Leary’s advise was “tune-in, turn-on and drop out.” Or the angelic voices of groovy guru of the day who suggest wandering in an open field for mindfulness training. Or the Birkenstocks environmentalist who insist we head back to nature and hug a tree; or the mental spiritualist that whisper meditation is the key. Maybe the best of them are the Tantra yogi’s who claim sexual pleasure is the way in and out; that the answer is a bit more of the old in and out. Being a hedonist myself I tend to flow in this direction.

Yet, with escape valves in place in case of overload and prayers to the universe for guidance, I can’t help myself wanting to sort through the noise and discover, like a pathfinder, which direction to point; for myself and others. The Stoics posited that the philosopher left the cave, examined the outside world and returned to tell the others of the joys and dangers outside the cave.

Now they’re be a noble and heroic cause; to be a fearless scout in the face of unknown dangers; to be a trailblazer for the greater good in a quest to report, interpret and transmit the findings. The conundrum seems to be we can’t translate through the noise to know what’s coming if we disengage from it.

In the end I’m left perplexed. Shall we try to make a path through the noise though we fear not knowing the answers and fear worse not even understanding the questions? Are we all just like our hero; wishing to be heroes; but succumbing to the dictates of surviving the day and reach for the safety and sanity of just catching that bus? #rednecknoise #Stoics #Trumpism #CharlesBukowski

Advertisements

Trump Trumps Reagan

And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.”Marcus Aurelius

A dog chases a bus; the bus stops – the dog catches it; what now?

The last time the money changers and the Army guys took over our government was during the Alfred E. Newman What Me Worry presidency of W; and you don’t need me to tell you how that turned out. The two sensational wars and the brilliance of the snouts-in-the-trough types like Dick-less Chaney and the top Wall Street-walkers detritus still lay smoldering at our feet.

This new Trump pseudo-populist phenomenon looks to be a replay of the 1980’s Reagan revolution when it became fashionable among the elite money fetishistic to popularize the bumper-sticker ethos “maximizing share-holder value’. This greed for its own sake origination created an accepted ethos of the T-Boone Pickens Green Mail artists of that era, set free by Reagan’s firing of Air traffic Controllers, signaling labor unions would be crushed.

That message was received by the twisted Orwellian named “job creators” and along with it came the export of manufacturing jobs sent overseas where peasants fresh from their countryside’s pure agrarian economy, paid $1.20 an hour for assembly-line factory jobs, would later land in suicide nets, as in China’s Apple works, after experiencing the sweat-shop working conditions, or as we like to call it, (absence of) regulation; the new drumbeat of the well-heeled mouth-pieces like Mitch McConnell. Americas middle-class lunch-pail voters who put both Reagan and Trump in the catbird seat where left abandoned; dazed and confused. The fat cat scoundrels disguised themselves wrapped in the American flag while secretly masturbating to their money porn financial fantasies under it.

The current zeitgeist buzz-phrase “economic growth” harkens back to the Ronnie-the ray gun Reagan era asleep at the wheel administration touting the maximizing of shareholder value and explains the diversions of Nicaragua, Grenada and soon thereafter Panama and explains why the old man left office in disgrace; a doddering, confused inept; not that dissimilar, save the aggression and vulgarity, to Trump’s persona; Americas’ Eddie Haskell president. The maladroitness of Reagan had him dismiss the Gorbachev plea at Reykjavik to ban all nuclear weapons because he’d seen some reality in the fiction movie that was Star Wars. Trump sees the future of nations as nuclear armed; locked and loaded on hair triggers; saving the USA from the cost of defending them.

Trumps picks for cabinet posts, like Reagan, signals, also well received, that agencies meant to foster our health and welfare will be headed by terroristic bomb-throwers set on blowing them up and killing them off. The Republicans long fantasized wet dream of shrinking government small enough to drown it in a bathtub seems to them closer to fruition than ever before. Their giddiness at the prospect of privatizing everything worth a buck has them caring less that the boss is a no-nothing gasbag shill. Someone might tell these diamond encrusted turds that America is not a business and they should not attempt to run it like one but the dazzling shine off their Gold Rolex watches blinds their cerebral cortex.

The Reagan period of selfishness, like Trumps soon to be phantasy, also laid waste to where we started; when capitalism was first envisioned; the idea that the corporation was a guest in the community. Now we’ll no longer be so crass as to subscribe motives to maximizing shareholder value; no. Now it’s the smoke screen of hire America and buy American “corporate responsibility” for the greater good of us all as cudgel to make their actions sympathetic to “America First” and their motives to lift ourselves up as pure as the driven slush.

There are a whole lot of literati out in the hustings angst filled over current affairs and rightly so. We seem to have elected a jackass bully with self-esteem issues to pull the levers of power and he’s handing those levers off to billionaires and x-generals. Is there another war for profit in our offing? Well; since no one, most of all the King himself, knows his next move; stay tuned.

Seems to me the best detergent against a stain is exposure. Once realized, once hung upon their own jaundiced cynicism; charlatans, most especially the narcissistic variety, fold under the weight of their own self-serving ideology. Shouting them down in the public square is thirst quenching but provides them with persecuted status; the very thing they claim; much like the long-suffering white nationalist Neo-Nazi shit bag fanatics. Let their actions speak I say; good citizens will recoil in disgust. In the interim we are left to hope the nincompoop don’t get us all killed from stupidity while they focus on coming after our social safety net. #TrumpTrumpsReagan # T-BoonPickens #wedon’tgetfooledagain #Newbosssameastheoldboss

Menagerie

“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am; stuck in the middle with you”.Stealers Wheel 

Ensconced in intimate accustomed comfort at Alley Cats, my fairy-tale towns time-honored espresso bar, same as every day, tattered rugged men commune reposed in cloistered arcade oasis. Banishing twitchy remnants of all-night acquired fogs in bits and pieces, tuned up on caffeine and camaraderie, an edgy restlessness jitterbugs between us.

Sitting abreast at the counter, a separate wiggling column; like a worm cut into many parts still alive; we are a collection of wild animals, paused in voluntary captivity; curios for the entertainment of our public other; our traveling show road game, a diverse, exotic unusual ensemble of natives in spa-like enclosure; on display for private, yet public, exhibition.

My comrade on the dais today, had, once upon a time I surmise, drank a good deal and held it well. Though his large inflamed nose veined with blue filament and voice hoarse thick with authority; it holds a bit of an air of fatherly friendliness. Like many hard men in this local, spawns of mother’s Midwestern Gothic, sparse in showing love or giving compliments, he has seen hard times; yet seems to have potential for being a good man.

Beneath our nirvana facade desperate lonely surface thoughts are masked.  Mutual descended angst is pealed back and the naked animal burdens all men carry, closeted with their bones, have been caged. For this performance we are in the present tense; in the now; always right here, right now.

Veils of personal miseries, those small deep sorrows held subterranean, over and above routine annoyances, hangnail to holocaust, fall away. They are cast off for these moments. Our bed of spikes alchemically transforms to goose down. No enemy is present here. Though this venue offers protection; a man’s hidden identity still hangs on him like armor. We are defined by the scars carried; tending to share losses over victories since losers know more about life than winners; each of us mangled and marked by the things we do to cope.

Holding forth, each a turn at the pulpit; a chance on stage, we suck on our auras. The topics skip nonchalant; to drone porn, the rise of the machines, and how that war crime is meliorated by the enemy with his constipated mixture of blocked compassion and wish for power; to whether it’s a prime time war crime or simply overblown drone moan matters less than our talent for the momentary subterfuge of omniscience.

Our fame and power, made possible by GOOGLE in the way Sam Colt made all men equal, does not change us; it amplifies who we are. We cannot but feel that here is something which exists only in this Rockwell painting clubhouse fortress; it belongs in the daydream of cinema or a novel. We are purple caped princes resplendent at court; defined by the topics we choose and the positions we take.

The women serve our portions like concubines, caressing us evenly with a friendliness color shaded with sensuality superior to wives or lovers. This kabuki ritual surrounds our mystic carnal thoughts splayed in torment. They are gleaming soft tissue lottery tickets we all find comfort in within our fantasy worlds imagining home spun ecstasies await when the sun sets.

Robert, emperor of the espresso machine, mixer of potions, liquid remedy tonic healer; poster of literary nuggets from which I steal, leaves vapor trails burning ecstatic machinations on his monarch scaffold. He is our master of ceremonies, keeper of the thread, holder of remembrances, perfect host, traffic cop and game show impresario; our triage surgeon.

Like fireflies we assembled princes of the day spin-off through the exit bound for separate glory or misery or mediocrity; just another glorious day in the service of our personal muse. Every day here is a holiday; every meal a banquet. When we flee they will play our theme songs and carve our names into the bar. We cast off our capes and leave them by the door; our daydreams sending us off to bed forever more.

UNION

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, clothed in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality”.—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Theodore Roosevelt said “This country will not be a good place for any of us to live unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in”. History shows us that without Unions and their right to collectively bargain for the betterment of workers the suits would have us working for the same subsistence wages peasants in China and Viet Nam toil under; without health care or safety codes or environmental standards.

The greed motivated neglect visited on workers without a voice and without the power to band together as one will lead us back to the days of Norma Ray Textile Mill sweatshops and the current state of coal miners in Appalachia. Today’s short-sighted profit motivated Republican coup in Michigan, home of the Teamsters that gave America a middle-class, to eviscerate Unions with the Orwellian language of Right to Work is just what Barack Obama said it was; the right to work for less. #The “Economic Bill of Rights”  – Franklin D. Roosevelt #Unions # Justice #China and Viet Nam #American standard of living -1944 State of the Union # Economic Bill of Rights

The “Economic Bill of Rights”  – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpt from 11 January 1944 message to Congress on the State of the Union

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

Perfectly Lonely

“The things we think, the things we want, we can do them or not; but we can’t hide them”. – David MametHouse of Games

Tommy crossed Mott Street so he could walk in the sun. The metal cleats on his imported Italian shoes clicked as they caressed the red brick. He glided along in front of those perfect blue buildings in Chelsea, the one’s he’d thought about so often when he lay in that open air prison cell in Africa waiting for the calendar to meet the day he’d circled.

It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon and a dozen young girls from Sacred Heart Academy in their catholic school uniforms paraded past him giggling and hiding their post pubescent bosoms behind stacks of school books. He watched the kids playing soccer in the manicured playground off Mulberry terrace. He took out his comb and slicked back his hair. An hour ago he’d still been asleep. He felt for the $ 1,200.00 in folding money he had in his left pocket and the folding knife in his right. He never carried a weapon here on his home turf in the good old U.S.A. where he felt he owned the streets. He never needed one. Here he was a known man. The fine Swiss folding knife was a gift for his nephew. He had carried it all the way back from Africa. He thought he would ask Barbara to wrap it for him. She always enjoyed wrapping gifts. He loved to watch her girlish joy as she warmed to the task, one he had no talent or patience for.

He passed the news stand and the candy store nodding acknowledgement to the group of teenagers loitering on their corner trying to look hard. “Hey Tommy, you back?” the leader of the kids said. The kid ran over and said “Tommy Christ man, it’s you, yea? No kid, you’re hallucinating, Tommy said. Tommy produced the roll of cash from his pocket and handed the kid a twenty-dollar bill. “Keep it quiet that you saw me,” Tommy said. “You got it Tommy”, the kid said.

All the while he made the rounds a movie of where he’d been these last few years played in his head. He remembered the first rule the African boys tribal Chief had taught him. The boys had befriended him because they said he looked like those pictures at the church, the ones depicting Jesus Christ. After they’d got to know him better they all thought this was the funniest thing ever. They laughed every time they recalled what Tommy had told them “things are not always as they appear”. They would repeat this endlessly every time they met, laughing with a joyful abandon. They took to calling him “ragazzo bianco”, a term Tommy taught them meant “white boy in Africa” in Italian.  He liked that better than the African version, Mukiwa, which sounded to him like a pejorative.

The boys took Tommy to meet the head man of their Shoshone tribe. The old leathered man exited his hut and extended his huge muscled hand while caressing Tommy’s hand gently. “My name is Joseph” the old man said. Joseph’s face was as black as the night; the pale yellow moon shown in his eyes. His said his path was marked by the stars in the southern hemisphere and he had walked all of his days under African skies.

The first rule Joseph told Tommy was this: “you cannot outrun anything here. Not we Africans who have grown up here and not the elephant or the monkey or even the army ants or the crocodile, everything here is faster than you. Never run away.” That was just fine with Tommy. He hadn’t run since he was 13 years old. It’s what he really liked about Africa; a wonderful symmetry, a dignity, a perfect loneliness in having at every moment to make a stand.

Tommy also learned that there on the Savanna the animals smelled the dung they encountered on the trail in the Bush, of the beast that had pasted that way, to decide if it were meat eater and to measure its ferocity. It was the same here in Tommy’s world he thought. But here men look into each others eyes; sometimes it’s just a glance if the prey were pushing a baby carriage with a woman by his side supremely confident she had her man by the balls. That guy just didn’t count since he had already given in. He was no threat and out-of-bounds.

Tommy was on his way to Barbara’s place. He hadn’t seen her since well before he’d left. Maybe he wouldn’t go. She was with Johnny now and that had sent him half way around the world. He still thought about her almost every day and the thought of seeing her again really put the hook in him. She’d never told him why she’d left him and he never asked. He was too blown apart by the loss of her love to think straight then. But now, after he had soothed his broken heart and dispelled all the craziness with every drug, every female and every adventure available to him on his lost voyage, it was the only answer in the world he cared to know the answer to even though now he felt he belonged to nobody and nobody belonged to him and that’s the way he wanted it. That was the way he chose to live now, perfectly lonely.

Barbara was on the phone with her girlfriend Caroline listening to her say that she’s heard that Tommy was in town. “I’ll bet that jackass is on his way to see you now” Caroline said. “Bobby saw him in Chelsea yesterday and he walked right by him like they hadn’t grown up together. Can you believe that”? Caroline said. “No”, Barbara said, “Tommy’s not like that. He’s got a heart. Did Bobby say how he looked”, Barbara asked.

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was taking place across town. Tommy hailed a cab and let the city drift by as the cabbie barreled down Tenafly and over to Melrose. The vendors were just setting up, getting ready for the evening festivities to jump off, firing up the grills and putting out the arcade games. The Carnies were busy assembling the kiddy rides; the merry-go-round and the Ferris wheel. When Tommy was a teenager he use to be the first one in line to hire on for day labor when the Carnival came to town, scrambling high up on the rides like an acrobat with large spanner wrenches to secure the bolts. You had to be in good shape and have nerves of steel to tackle that job and the girls that traveled with the carnival would watch as Tommy in bare chest climbed up the sides of the rides. He looked good without a shirt and the girls always found Tommy.

Tommy and Carmine’s eyes met at just about the same moment as Tommy turned up Melrose. “Holy shit Tommy” she exclaimed. “My God, where the hell have you been? You look beautiful baby. You’re so thin. Come here and let me fix you a sandwich”. Carmine hugged Tommy and lingered a moment more than she ever had before. “I missed you baby’ Carmine said. When did you get back? Have you seen Barbara yet? Carmine was excited with joy and speaking so fast that Tommy had no time to offer up any answers.

You know that Johnny will be here tonight. I hope you’re not going to start any trouble. You know he’s still royally pissed off at you. He really doesn’t like you. Bobby told me he’s been saying some awful things, Carmine said. “Yea, I heard”, Tommy said. Don’t worry angel, that fat bastard’s not gonna stand on me.” Tommy tapped his right pocket again feeling the heft of the folded blade.

It was midnight his third day back when Tommy strolled into the poker game in the back room of Sal’s Bar.  As soon as their eyes met, without a word Johnny came at Tommy like a locomotive, his massive girth giggling as he bounded from his chair and across the room. He fell headlong into Tommy and they hit the floor. Johnny’s 330 pounds crushed Tommy 130 pound body and made him feel like he was being suffocated by a whale. Johnny struggled to maneuver the knife from his right pocket, opened it with his teeth and blindly stuck it deep in Johnny. As fate would have it, as it always did with Tommy, the blade severing the carotid artery in Johnny’s neck. Johnny yelled in agony and shock. He twisted and moaned and wound down like a kind of old clock. Johnny bled out in just over a minute. Sal’s wife Jessie dropped the tray of sandwiches and drinks and screamed from the pit of her stomach in horror which scared the attendees more than seeing the dead body they just been playing cards with a moment earlier. She ran out of the room to call up the cops who arrived within minutes with their red lights flashing in the hot Manhattan night.

Tommy stood before the booking sergeant in handcuffs as he was processed into the city jail with a first degree murder beef hanging over his head. He lay back on the bunk in his cell and thought about Barbara for a minute and then began to fall asleep. Tommy dreamt of Africa and what Joseph had told him. Tommy whispered to himself. “You can’t outrun anything here either Joseph; my whole world is a jungle”.

Soon after Johnny fell word spread across the neighborhood with the speed of a late night subway train. Ten minutes after she got the call Barbara was frantically speeding across town on empty streets. She had to see him, had to tell him she loved him, how she always had and always would. She planned to tell the authorities she was his wife and maybe then they’d let her see him.

The tears in her eyes welled up and for a second blinded her. She reached in the console for a tissue and momentarily lost control of the car as it drifted into the oncoming lane just as the garbage truck exited the alley at Folsom and hit her broadside right at the driver’s side door. The truck driver had little time to apply the anti-lock brakes and the truck heavily laden with its stinking cargo jolted and skipped to a stop pinning Barbara’s car against a street lamp that was right next to a bus stop kiosk.

The garbage truck driver radioed his dispatcher who phoned the police. The paramedics arrived just when the cops had managed to extract the rumpled door with the Jaws of Life. The M.T. grabbed his emergency gear and ran over to where Barbara lay motionless. “You’re going to be fine sweetheart. Just stay with me. Don’t close your eyes” He said. “We’ll have you out of here and in the hospital in ten minutes”, He said.   “Am I going to die” Barbara whispered? “Not tonight sweetheart” the M.T, said. “What’s your name angel” he said? Barbara whispered something he couldn’t make out. Blood was clogging her airway. He leaned in close and gently put his ear to her bloody mouth. “Tommy” Barbara whispered as she faded, “Tommy”.