Nigger

Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits” – “seven words you can never say on television” – George Carlin 1972

I’m thinking about Bill Maher this morning and the brouhaha kerfuffle over his quick joke gone bad last night on live TV; wherein he used the word nigger. Even as I write this I wonder if I should capitalize the offensive word. You get the beef right. It’s, far as I can figure; the only word in the English language we aren’t suppose to say no matter what. If a black guy is on the roof of a burning building and the firemen show up you can’t point and say “Save the nigger”. In that context it would be a slur. But what about in some other benign context. Should the same rules apply?

I spent thirty of my last thirty-five years in Oakland, CA and for a hand full of those years worked in inner-city programs. In one C.E.T.A. project of forty-four folks I was one of only two whites and the other white guy was the director; a man who prior to this assignment may well have never met a black person. The guy rarely left the office and spoke to us from a privileged perch. I however, was in the streets with the guys and surely; I never said the word in any context. It’s never been a part of my vocabulary. I was a bit of a leader I suppose and as a running joke the guys took to calling me “say so” (my last name is Masesso). So as the nickname suggests; I wasn’t shy. When I was fifteen years old I was sentenced to the state reformatory for juvenile delinquents at Saint Charles, Illinois. I spent a year there. Out of two thousand inmates the white kids made up only 15% of the population. I said all that to say this; I’ve spent the better part of my adult life in the company of black folks. So given that fact alone I think I have some right to a “say so”. And I say take a chill pill on this one.

Some of the black guys in the juvenile facility, that’s a kind acronym for a gladiator academy where the age group was 15, 16 and 17 years old; prime fisticuffs period in any mans life and since these were, according to the state of Illinois, adjudged by a judge, delinquents, the toughest and most dangerous of the bad boys of that era, some would react violently to anyone black or white who used the term and some on the other hand would say it all the time. By the way; the term “Black” in those days, 1962, was also a slur and never said. The proper term then and you had to use it; was Negro. Say Black and you’d for sure be in a fight. Things change.

What seems completely lost in the current mess is Maher used the term in a benign context. He didn’t use the word in the context of a slur or in a derogatory manner. He used it in reference to site an historical fact; used it within a common colloquialism of that period of time and one that survived historically and is well known and still used today. Malcolm X most famously popularized it in the 1960’s; often using it in his explanation of how history had hung over in this particular regard to the current period. The phrase in question was in fact, in the way Bill Maher used it, self deprecating.

Surely just saying any word in a benign context can’t make you anything; certainly not something as specific as a racist or a bigot. Its all about the context. I’m writing this to defend the guy even though he’s apologized as he should but moreover to defend our right to speak freely without having the inquisition foisted upon us. Hearing the chorus of rabid calls for him to be made to disappear offends the memory of Mario Savio, Lenny Bruce, Salman Rushdie and all lovers of free speech. Anyway, this is what prompts my Sunday Morning concern and results in this; my little missive.

I know, I know – this column may well lead to all manner of repercussions for me from those easily offended – but frankly; I don’t give a fuck. Wait; can I say fuck?

#nigger # free speech #Bill Maher

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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

Pivot Point

“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!”
John Dickinson; Founding Father

My girlfriends tears have turned to angry resolve. She yearns to tear apart the edifice of the fascist brute terrorizing her dreams and render his ascendency asunder. My best friend here, undoubtedly a Trump voter, seems a bit giddy. I want to tell him, like Trump. “I hear things”. Also like Trump, I don’t know if its true and since the outcome is settled I care less but I hear Trump won Wisconsin by 27,000 votes yet 300,000 voters were denied a ballot because they did not have a photo I.D. Therein, I suppose, lay the rigging.

Later today Trump will receive his first true comprehensive security briefing, wherein he is made aware of all our most highly guarded secrets. It is a rife of information Barack Obama was heard to have said when he received it, “I wanted to jump out of a window”. Perhaps this will level out our puffed-up braggart President elect.

I’ve found myself saying over the past several days when questioned about this rare phenomenon; “Well, he can’t be as bad as I think he is”. And though my stomach still churns every time I consider this sub-genius as our leader my nature steers me back to considering and acting out what will be my part in an outcome that represents the greater good.

Perhaps once we sweep away the lengthy litany of verbal transgressions from our normative societal behavior that the Trump himself has spewed and judge what comes next on what comes next from our confused and under qualified leader; those actions will lead us towards our next move. Meanwhile we have to hope that this man, positioned uniquely in history to do enormous good; does just that.

We are it seems clear stuck with him for now. And while I’m fully aware of all the apocalyptic predictions and fears and in my deepest heart of hearts share many of them, my higher self tells me no one man, even the first true populist ever elected, can throw a monkey wrench onto the gears of our lives and stop our forward progress; let alone render us crippled. And if I’m wrong and any one man can ruin our 240 year old experiment in self-government, the greatest idea in history; then I suppose we deserve it. #presidentelecttrump

Indian Summer

“The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season; infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled”. – Henry Adams

Returning to my comfort station, reclining as calm and safe as a man watching a snow storm from his fireplace, resplendent in my throne as form-fitting as a dentist’s chair; the Technicolor movie that never ends burns outside my writers window; bringing me once again to a level of consciousness and sense of detail rarely met. The weather seer on the magic box tells me this very day brings forth the peak of Fall’s funeral colors.

Autumn leaves empty of promise as a woman past the magic of birth cascade choreographed in a wonderland as quiet as asylum walls, yet hot as the boiler room of the damned; death colored egg yolk yellow and shot through with veins as red as Gods blood rainbow arcs as colorful as a shower of dying clowns.

They flutter, cut loose and fly in somnambulist vertigo exhaustion; oscillating on the almighty hawks reaper winds; looking like pixie magic carpets; organic meteor showers in this curious early evening; creating a musical serenade of tiny organic castanets inside north-lands mystical Peter Pan Neverland forest; then land in quiet triumph. Wood smoke clings to a darkened moonless sky like a quivering mist shaking in its tilt above and across a glass smooth lake.

Another more common death notice arrived across the wire today; my Muse, most dear to me, robed in colors soft pink and regal purple, is feeling the loss of one most dear to her. Though channeling the bereavement, nonplussed, she is comforted in the knowledge that every description of the end was never other than glorious. I will save a leaf or two in memory of this years last interment procession and place in them the memory of their best days, as I hope the amulet I sent her will assuage the injury and immortalize the sad event; elevating both their status to symbolic yet sacred sarcophagus.

The moment speaks an echoing acoustic truth; as above so below. The last chapter of Fall’s story mimics our own, or so we hope; that like natures end-of-days cycle we too, in our last evolution, will rush forth most musical and magnificently colored in our ending hours. Snakes shed their skin and stay; trees release their leaves yet still breathe and we jettison our flesh and blood while our soul essence linger. This Indian summer is the perfect time for the rewards of that esoteric existential wondering.

In this cycle of life, death and rebirth the deeds we leave behind are the steps of the dance we taught our brothers and sisters; they stay as rhythms they will never lose. We celebrate souls that pass to the other side in the same way we celebrate Indian summer;  just another life form bound by the rules of nature.

Paradisio

“Perhaps it’s the color of the sun cut flat; covering the crossroads that I’m standing at. Or maybe it’s the weather or something like that; but mama, you’re just on my mind”Bob Dylan

My once upon a time wife passed over to the other side a few months ago and today a message came to me, circuitously through our shared progeny and the family grapevine, by way of a dream had by our offspring, telling me to be careful not to do a thing that, inexplicably, I had just decided to no longer do.

Not sure if she’s watching me or if my thoughts caught the firmament and landed in my son’s psyche. I suspect the latter more likely only since the former would be just too flattering; what with all she’d now be able to watch, if in fact she’s gained that power, she’d spend those winged hours watching over me.

I’d be cool with either the celestial or the extra terrestrial phenomenon. If she is watching me she knows I’m living under an open heaven; writing in the wee hours  when the balmy silence of my paradise encapsulates my typer and me; freeing us to immortalize the only record that tracks my moods.

The moon has vanished and its afterglow is back-lighting the proud formations of ancient tree stands that silhouette both gods, and my, impeccable landscape; forming low rolling mountains around the bucolic void of an idle lake outside my beloved writing window.

The absent moon has left bite marks on the sky; all the rooms in my mansion smell like jasmine and when I finally succumb to slumber, if at all tonight, my soul will take up the dreams of the ghosts who slept here before me; maybe even dreams of her.

In these wee hours when thinking turns to feeling a perfect loneliness nestles beside me as I contemplate the length, breath, width and depth of the gratitude my Muse wisdom’s me to ponder daily; reminding me that every person, and every thing, around me is an energetic reflection of some aspect of my inner state of being. She counsels my heart to choose to BE Love and watch the world transform, amaze, delight and inspire.

The great Kurt Vonnegut also provides me with similar and equally profound advice half way through Slaughterhouse Five; the very same advice he was given by the Tralfamadorians, and it seems to have been forever ingrained in my DNA even before either of them said it; proof of Jung’s theory of collective consciousness.

Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones. Well hell, maybe that’s, after all, the secret and the purpose and the meaning of life. If it is; it’s plenty good enough for me.