Monday, October 31, 2011

Where There Is Smoke There is Firesmith


            Drinking in The South was a rite of passage for males. If you were going to be a man you were going to have to drink to excess. The drug thing, not so much, but I felt as if doing a liquid drug was good then doing a liquid and a smoke was even better. I truly do not remember one complete week of High School. I do remember some of the things they told me I did and I remember The Smoke Bomb. It was one of those defining moments of my life as to whether or not I was going to live like some sheep carrying book inside of a prison, or if I was going to voice my concern about my general welfare by committing an act of arson and anarchy. The idea of anarchy won. My freshman year of High school was about to become interesting.
            My father had done some black powder hunting but had more or less given it up. He still had some metal cans with gun powder in them, and I had heard that if sulfur burned it smelled truly rancid. I took out a small amount of black powder from one of the cans, mixed it with some sulfur from my old chemistry set, and set it ablaze. It was disappointing. It smelled bad, sure, but it burned far too quickly to ignite all the sulfur. I had to come up with some idea so I tried some filler material. I chose wax because it does burn, but not as quick as gunpowder, and it turns into a liquid and it a bitch to put out with water if it gets hot enough. Sulfur, gun powder, and wax worked very well in the trials.
            The boy’s locker room at school was pretty much the standard fare locker room, but there were a couple of the wall lockers that were broken.  No one ever used them or opened them, so a couple of days before the event I started hauling in supplies so no one would see me come in with a lumpy package. I brought in the wax and sulfur first because it was so benign no one would or could accuse me of bomb making at that point, and on day of the event I snuck in early, mixed what was about half a large manila envelope of wax shavings, with a pound of gunpowder and two pounds of sulfur.  I made a fuse that I would light using a cigarette and hid the bomb under a pile of trash and an old dirty towel. I had gym for the first class and obediently did my jumping jacks, push-ups, and other exercises. While everyone else was showering and getting ready for class, I hastily lit a cigarette, jammed it into the fuse, and then went outside to pick a fight with one of the coaches.  Coach Stocky was a bulldog of a man who never grew higher than waist level as a child and as a result, just got broader.  I asked him if he ever thought about suing the school for building the floor so close to his ass and he went off the deep end. A cigarette will burn down in about four minutes. A high school coach’s attention span when focused on yelling at the school screw up is considerable longer.  About a minute deep I turned and walked off from him which assured me he was going to grab me and made me stand there and take it.
            There was a yell, and then another, and then there was a chorus of yelling and screaming and suddenly the locker room began to empty out in a hurry. I followed Stocky back into the locker room, and damn, I’m here to tell you there was some smoke.  Think, angry, grey smoke, poured out of the locker like some Stygian nightmare with an industrial color scheme. Like the hell it was, the locker room only needed a bat winged demon for décor.  The smart kids were getting the hell out of dodge, some sans clothing but the rest were watching the show.  Stocky grabbed a broom and tried to beat the fire out. What he managed to do was set the broom on fire, spread my version of Greek fire, and got a serious case of smoke inhalation. It took four of us to carry him out of the locker room.  For reasons I never understood they never called the fire department, but damn, what some smoke!
            I knew, really knew, if this had played out like the trials did, they would be looking for someone’s head, and mine would be first on the block. I had learned early on there are two rules to keep yourself out of trouble.
1.      Work alone.
2.      Never tell anyone what you’ve done.
You wouldn’t believe the trouble you’ll get into have someone there with you. With two suspects they’ll take them to separate rooms and tell each of them, “You buddy says this was all your idea and he was just watching.” They both with turn on one another and they’d get humped. By this time in my life I knew damn well I couldn’t trust anyone else, and regardless of what you might think of the public school system, it is always the unpopular kids who get punished more severely than those who are more culturally acceptable. Blaming Mike Firesmith was an easy way to get out of any trouble, and I played the reverse card on that one constantly saying they always blamed me. This time they were right. They knew they were right. But they couldn’t prove it.
            I also learned early on there were guys who would come up to you and pretend to be all excited and happy and your best friend and then take what you had told them to the principal’s office as fast as they could scurry there. So the very first thing I did in the aftermath of the smoke bomb was to run around and asking other guys if they had done it. I tried to get one or two to confess to me they had while we were in front of other people, and this tactic worked better than you could believe. Some straight laced loser who never got into any trouble thought he would mess with me by telling me he did it but someone overheard him bragging about it. While being interrogated I told them I had overheard a confession and so had others.
            The incident marked a turning point between myself, the school officials, the coaches, and most of the other students. While I never admitted to what I had done, it was generally believed I had done it. It was the first thing I did that scared people to the point they began to do something they had never done before; they left me alone. Far from an act that I committed for attention, this was fang bearing. This was a long low growl. This was my first trip into real destruction and it showed them whatever was happening in my head had begun to accelerate.
The war was to last another three years before they surrendered.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Anytown, South Georgia


I have a meeting before dawn and because I am pathologically punctual like no one else alive, I get there early, even if I am still fighting the flu. I park just to the side of the front of a convenience store and the owner, a stern looking man with a bushy mustache and cell phone glued to one ear, walks out to sternly glare at me for just parking and not buying anything. It’s an impolite way of clearing a parking space but it’s before dawn so there isn’t anyone else around. Someone desperately seeking coffee, because drinking convenient store coffee is like scoring heroin from someone you met in an outhouse, pulls in and he has to retreat from his optical chastisement. This is a small town in South Georgia and if you were to travel US84 from one side of the state to Alabama, each and every small town would be very much like the other.
            My cultural DNA is from South Georgia but sometimes I feel like a bastard child. The convenient store is adjacent to a lot where there is one of the omnipresent trailer houses that litter South Georgia, and this is one so stereotypical it would be cast in a movie about South Georgia if one was ever shot. Someone took some sort of aluminum garden shed and attached it to the front of a single wide trailer to give them an extra bedroom. It’s judgmental, I know, and I hate myself for thinking things like this, but I can envision some overweight redneck tacking a shed to his trailer so his fifteen year old daughter can keep her two kids in the same room. The other bedroom is already taken by the older daughter who has two of kids of their own from three different fathers.
            What I should do is point out someone out there has the skill to pull off such a feat of engineering, but I have seen far too many attempts that had failed. Enough do work to keep others trying and when it gets right down to it, who among us wouldn’t tack a shed to a trailer to make room for a child if that is all that was left to do? Doesn’t it seem like a man with enough skill to put a shed onto a trailer and make a home for his grandchildren would have the ingenuity to make a better living? But the world doesn’t work like that. It wasn’t the men mining for gold who made the money but the men who sold the shovels and the men who owned the land.  The men who coaxed food from the ground as sharecroppers lived like animals while the plantation owners lived like kings. This man attaches a garden shed to a trailer, the most unlikely of copulations, and still lives in a hovel, however clever.
The light slowly becomes good enough for me to see the state of ill repair of the trailer itself, with sheet metal tacked on here and there, and pieces mismatched by color, and the layered flashing that indicates leaks and more leaks and new leaks. Now I can see the graveyard of car parts in the yard, an engine block rusting on the ground, and in one window is a confederate flag with a bass in the middle.
            I despise the term poor white trash because it tosses all poor white people in the same boat with those people who are trashy. The amount of engineering skill it takes to attach a shed to a trailer and make it livable speaks to the ability of someone to make a home out of nothing and being able to use your hand like that is a gift, but it doesn’t mean someone is good with money, or has the skills to get an education. But there is a great deal of ignorance associated with the War Of Northern Aggression and the flag is a symbol of that ignorance. To stick a fish in the middle of it and fly it from your bedroom window is to assure some assumptions are going to be made about you, and here we are.
            The light filers slowly through the overcast sky and I see there is a stack of firewood near a pecan tree near a laundry line. Fireplaces in modified trailers seem to be sure evolutionary devices yet I see no sign of a chimney. But my roots in this part of the world run deep. I cannot deny my blood. I look for, and find, a burn barrel near the stack, and see the distorted air still boiling out of the top. There is a chair, no, two, now I can see a third and this is the community come and sit and drink place. I’ve sat around a fire just like this and drank with flag fish people before. Now I see two toy dump trucks near the fire, where children would play while surreptitiously listening to the adults talk, learning all the fish flag people lore they need to go nowhere in life. The owner of the store comes out to glare at me again and this time he means business. I ignore him, and even if he doesn’t realize it, if he says anything to me I’m going to shake hands with him, and cough on him. There is a pair of child sized overalls on the fence around the house, and parts of the fence are missing. There’s a tire swing hanging from the pecan tree and I wonder how the hell they managed to get the rope up that high, and what sort of limb it is connected to up there. Out of the shadows what I thought was a pile of junk the form of a kayak emerges. A kayak? That is odd but it’s full of water and I can see the reflection of light where the seat ought to be. It is the shell of a kayak, perhaps. I can see now the trailer/shed combo is resting on a concrete slab that is far too large for it, as if they erected the thing on the grave of a larger building. The wan dawn light reveals a pig trail of beaten down grass to the dirt where the flag fish people have trodden back and forth to the convenience store. The light gains strength and I see beyond the trailer/shed there are two more rows of trailers each one of them with just enough room for a truck to park between. The owner of the store comes to glare at me again, but the guy I’m meeting with finally arrives. The store owner knows him and smiles. “Have any problems finding this place?” he asks.”I was born here” I nearly tell him.
Anytown South Georgia. Anywhere along US84 it looks just like this, at exactly the same time of day.   
            Take Care,
Mike

Matt Williams

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I am this morning made entirely of the snark.



I’ve been down and out with what feels a lot like the flu for the last two days.  The fever is there, the coughing is there, I feel weak and generally speaking, I am bitchy. The weakness of the disease is what is really killing me because it is very hard to sit upright and concentrate on anything in this condition. Worse, the mutts sense something is wrong and they give me little peace, as if getting up and going outside to roll around in the dirt with them might make me feel better. It would, I know, but at the same time I barely have enough strength to get up and move around to fix meals and do laundry. Mutt tussling will have to wait until the weekend, I fear.
            The bonfire party Saturday night was what really kicked this thing off. I breathed in far too much smoke for it to be healthy for me and I felt bad all day Sunday. But the fire was good for me, too. It’s been a while since I had a big fire to play with and it did me good to be able to keep it alive and well in front of friends. Fire isn’t something everyone does well, but like driving, most people believe they can do well. Peg is severely OCD when it comes to her yard and she rakes up every leaf and gathers every twig. Yet this all makes for a good fire, and while others bemoaned the lack of real kicking flame, I recognize the nature of the fuel and the nature of the fire. Leaf fires burn hot and burn deep. Where there is smoke there will be fire so that’s where I pile more leaves. By the time it began to cool off, however, the fire was breaking through several points in the pile, as I knew it would, and there was warmth aplenty for everyone sitting around the fire and talking. Leaf fires are interesting because the deep burning coals are made of tiny pieces not chunks like a wood fire. As the fire burns down a bit I dig down and uncover some of those coals and expose them to the cool night air. In the darkness it looks like the lights of a city with a multitude of bright spots of light, or the night sky full of red stars. This is temporary artistry as the coals linger just for a moment then wink out, as if a dark dawn has arrived in the city of red lights.
            Sunday morning the weakness began and I was coughing some. By Sunday afternoon it was clear something was not right. Monday I felt progressively worse, and when I got home I knew that was it for a couple of days.  It was time to dig in, bundle up, medicate, mediate, and just plain feel sick for a while. I went to the store for chicken soup and hot peppers. There is little else on earth that makes flu better than chicken soup and hot peppers. Yet the weirdness began to set in as I became more ill.
            Remember the film, “A Space Odyssey: 2001”? I read the book long before I saw the movie so the movie didn’t make a lot of sense when it got down to it, but it was one of the first screenplays to show futuristic living conditions which I would enjoy when I reached 2001. Unfortunately for us all, it is now 2011 and none of the space travel that was shown is here. Worse yet, and I cannot remember why I don’t remember this of the movie to begin with, “2001” is now some sort of  lengthy foot dragging acid trip triggering slog that ends poorly, not that a lengthy foot dragging acid trip triggering slog could end well, mind you. This is not the movie I remember when I watched it when I was healthy. Being sick changes the way to see a lot of things, hence the condition of the snark.
            The book was much better and the whole concept of the monolith was explained more clearly. The movie doesn’t really address why the monolith is there or what happened with the ape people or the leopard, or why the other monolith is on the moon. The one truly damning part about being a writer is having the sneaking suspicion that you could have written most things better.
            Being sick makes for much more vivid dreams, and considering the amount of over the counter meds I’ve been taking it’s a miracle that 2001 didn’t push me over the edge. You know, now that I think about it, I think I was maybe ten years old when 2001 came on television and it wasn’t that great in black and white. I’m a dinosaur, I realize that, but one day there will be a time when no one can remember video that wasn’t in 3D and then you’ll have the same feeling I get when I talk about black and white. Considering I can’t buy a ticket to fly to the moon yet, I’m not holding my breath for universal 3D quite yet.
            One thing I did do was start playing chess again. The computer is beating me like Amy Winehouse’s ex late night Saturday, but I still remember how to lose well. Playing chess takes my mind off the fact I can’t think straight or clearly and sometimes not at all. Hmmm, you know, it doesn’t do any of that, nevermind. But once upon a time I was a decent chess player and I like playing even when I lose. Today I beat the computer twice in a row so I must be getting better or at least more well than I was. The general state of snark will end, hopefully, tomorrow and I will return to the land of the living. And as always, have a nice day.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Missing in Missouri


I have done my share of drinking in my lifetime and when I was younger I did the shares left over from nuns and monks who had never touched the stuff. The younger version of me never bought less than a case of beer and was famous for tossing the cap away from a new bottle of whiskey. Drink til you’re gone or drink til it’s gone. The philosophy was fairly simple. I’ve met people who would not drink around their kids and it took a while to figure that one out, and yes, not having kids did slow down the thought process a bit. “What if something happens?” a woman responded to me one night when I offered her a drink after her kids had gone to sleep. “Like what?” I asked. “Like you” she said.
            What she meant was not that I would happen to her or her kids, but she might wind up too bombed to realize something was happening until it was too late. That’s a possibility you cannot ignore if you are a responsible parent, and I’m not saying people who drink cannot be responsible parents, but it’s the level of intoxication that is the distinction here. Your kid goes into the bathroom for a drink of water then breaks the glass, steps on a piece of it, and you’ve got to drive to a hospital with a good buzz on. Yeah, I get that now. When I was twenty something things like that didn’t rip through the haze but now I can see where kids and intoxication do not mix well at all.
            I once sat in on the questioning of an employee who was suspected of stealing some money from a restaurant. As someone who drank with the guy I didn’t think he would steal but as a manager I knew damn well when the cash had gone missing and I knew who had access. The cops let him tell his story and then they started putting pressure on the facts of where he was and when he was there and who saw him and what he had been doing there. His first story was he was never there and then when the cops kept hammering away at why he was there he told them oh, by the way, he was there, but only for a short time. Finally, one of them said, “It’s not really stealing if you just borrowed it and meant to pay it back later, is that what happened?” As it turns out, it is really stealing even in that case.
            There’s a woman in Missouri who was drinking and has changed her story. Right now, I would bet you there is a cop who is telling her. “Look, accidents happen, kids get into things, everybody knows this, it happens all the time that kids get into things, so the child fell that is what happened didn’t it? It was an accident, wasn’t it? That was how it happened, right?”
            But she has to know I’m out here too. I’m the man on the jury who will talk the others into the maximum sentence, not because it was an accident, but because she lied about it, because she hid the body, put everyone through the searching, and because she was drunk. She has to hope there are one or two people like I used to be when I was a pot smoking drunk and not enough people out there who would like to see her torched for this. For once, I’m betting I’m in a majority here.
            It’s possible she had nothing to do with the missing child. Someone who wanted a baby saw her buy her box of wine, knew her husband was at work, and knew, really knew, people like me would blame her. This is me happening to her. This is getting so ripped she doesn’t hear the dog barking or the child crying and it’s a very long time before the child is discovered missing. If someone else did this then someone else planned to do this and they were given a gift of time the child could not afford to pay. But that’s a reach. The stranger story sounds a lot like Kenny Hardwick. It doesn’t ring true and in this case she finally admitted the first story was not. The cracks appear in the lie.
            Where is the baby? The fact that everyone but Lucas and I have been out looking for that kid means if the parents killed the baby it wasn’t as accident. They went to real trouble to hide the body so even if it is found there will be damn little evidence left a la Casey Anthony. They can claim anything they want to and walk off from it if that case is a precedent. It would not be hard, however, for someone who took a baby to hide a baby once they were out of the state. I’m a law of averages type guy and that leads me to think a drunk woman changing her story is guilty of a lot more than just truly bad taste in wine.
            This time next week I think it will be over. Boxed wine people are not known for their strength of character and I think both of them are involved, and one of them will crack. Either that or one of the other kids might have done something and hid the body as only a kid could. That’s the real damage here to that family and that would be the longer this drags out the more theories will begin to pop up like mushrooms in a pasture full of cow patties.
            There is danger here, real danger, that I will be on that jury, and eleven people like me will be ready, willing, and able, to nuke that woman and her husband, and all along, they didn’t do it. I won’t really be there, but someone like me, who remembers drinking and the danger it causes, and the parents who wouldn’t drink and in the end, they’ll be convicted for that alone, for being bad parents, regardless.

And I cannot help but feel there is some justice in this.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, October 17, 2011

Matches


Moonlight was still pouring through the windows like a stream that had been released from a beaver dam. The Three were restive in the beginning of the night, but had settled down to sleep once the evening began to cool off a bit. This is good sleeping weather with the temperature slipping down into the fifties at night. Lucas has taken up sleeping on the right side of me, and he’s a warm puppy. At nearly three years old, Luke is beginning to edge away from being a puppy and I miss that.  Bert is aging rapidly before my eyes and only Sam seems to be holding steady. I know she’s there before I feel her weight on the bed, and Lucas moves over to allow her some room.
            “When I was a little girl there was an old man who used to strike matches on the palms of his hands and then hold the match up to watch it burn out. You could go to a store then and get a half a box or a quarter of a box of matches, and sometimes you’d buy a little bundle of ten tied together with a string, and keep them in a snuff box or such. There wasn’t a need for matches for poor folk because even paying a penny for something was too much unless you could eat it. Most people used a flint to start a fire, and folk kept a coal burning in the stove all the time if they could. Cold winter was dangerous time to go without fire but you didn’t hear about people dying from it like they do now. Whiskey got to killing people in the cold and nobody figured that out. It was like they thought it was keepin’ them warm but they’d wake up dead with it the next morning. Dying drunk is confusing as hell, you know.
            But the old man said he married a girl too young and her Pa came after her one night so the man hit her Pa in the head with a shovel and they both thought he was dead. They took to run and headed up north, plains country, past where there was people and they found a old sod shack built into the ground. He found a job on a ranch but hid the girl from everybody cause they was both afraid the law might put two and two together if they saw her. Neither knew of the cold that the winter would bring and they weren’t ready for it when it got there. The rancher took the man out to a place to help dig a wagon out of the mud and  they saw a huge cloud come rushing out of the north like the hand of God Himself. They got the wagon out but the rancher told the man they would have to hold up at his place until the snow stopped. The man had to confess he was hiding the girl so the rancher let him have a horse, and the man rode back to her, in the storm.
            When he got back it was so cold the grass had already froze in place and broke like crystal under the hooves of the horse. The sod house leaked a bit, and was damp cold inside. The girl was wrapped in blankets and the fire had gone out in the stove. The man tried to flint it up but the cold was too much for the fire, and night caught them cold and dark.
            The girl told the man she hadn’t bled in a month, maybe longer, and they both huddled together knowing there was three of them to die now. Without fire, there was no way to live through the night, and the man knew it. He put his hands on her body to warm them, to keep them from shaking and he could feel the cold of them biting into her, but she didn’t flinch from it. He gathered up some of the feathers from the bed, and some dust, and some wood shavings and tried to flint a spark into them but not the tiniest light could be bring. He tried rubbing sticks together but all he got was a thin wisp of smoke. The night grew colder and the horse tried to push his way into the house before he died, too.
            The rancher and two other hands fought their way to the sod house the next day but it was noon before they got there. They saw the mound of snow that marked where the sod house was, but they didn’t see any smoke so they knew there wasn’t much hope of finding anybody alive in there. The managed to get through the door and when they did what they saw was worse than what they had imagined.
            The old man telling me this said he and that girl managed to stay together for nearly fifty years before she died. Her Pa wasn’t dead, and he came looking for them after a five year spell, and there was two kids by then, and he settled down a bit about getting hit in the head with a shovel.  He had heard about the cold spell that hit was wanted to know how they lived through it, and wondered if the stories he had heard were true, and they allowed they were.”
            She stopped speaking and I lay there and listened to the sound of Lucas’ breathing in the night. The moonlight had shifted around a bit and the shadows were deepening.
            “What happened?” I asked and my own voice seemed tiny.
            “They let the horse in for the heat of his body but it wasn’t enough. The man took a knife and slit the horse’s throat, and then cut the horse open, and stuffed the girl inside, and pushed his way in with her. The rancher and his help found them frozen into the carcass the next day, but still alive. The meat and heat of the horse had kept all three living past the dawn. But had the rancher not come, they would have died in there. That old man liked to strike matches and watch them burn down to nothing.”
            I woke up to moonlight and Lucas with his head up, looking at something in the dark. I could smell blood and sulfur in the night.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Missing


If the Internet has done nothing else it has given new life to dead hope. Once the parents of missing children could fight hard to find their missing offspring but the window closed slowly upon the searchers and unless the child was found quickly, or a perpetrator accused soon,  then the police activity would decrease by degrees and finally all but stop.
            Very few of us would remember Elizabeth Ann Gill, a two year old who disappeared from her from yard in 1965, but I read a story about a missing child, and that lead to a link about Gill, and here you are, reading about a child you may have never heard of before. What are the odds that Gill was kidnapped, taken in by some stranger, raised and then lived to see the sun come up today, and perhaps see thing, and wonder? Who out there questions the story of their birth? Is there someone out there even now who is sitting there and now realizes they might be one of the missing, and might actually be Elizabeth Gill?
            I know it is unlikely, but unlikely too is a child being snatched by a stranger in 1965. In 1992 a man called his wife to report their seven month old daughter had been taken, and the story slowly unfolded into a case of murder after a year or so. That happened here in Georgia and there was nothing about the story I believed at all. The father of the child looked and acted guilty. The police slowly wore him down and finally he confessed he had “accidently” killed the child and then hid the body in a state of panic. Does this sound familiar to you? How many times has this story be repeated? The parents are not always guilty, don’t get me wrong, but in so many cases where there is a story of some stranger who has taken a child and gone, the parents are the last to see the child alive.
            The murder of JonBenét Ramsey was a classic case where everyone knew, they just knew, the parents had done it, and now the evidence suggests they did not. But the pendulum swings both ways. The Georgia case was one where the father of the child was a low life red neck uneducated beer swilling hick who seemed to have the same nurturing skills as most Cottonmouths. The Ramey’s were well off but their damning trait was to parade their poor daughter around in beauty contests, made up to look like a miniature woman, and I suspect that attracted the wrong sort of attention, but really, what in the hell do you expect out of that sort of activity? Dress your toddler up as a tramp and when she goes missing you might wonder why everyone on earth thinks you killed her.
            Those two cases were solved or at least resolved to the point there was a body recovered. Yet Elizabeth Gill’s family knows no closure. Every woman stopping to ask for directions or selling Avon, or just passing by their house slowly is a possibility and a reopening of a wound that will never truly heal. The days turn into weeks, the weeks into months and the month into years.  Birthday come and go without a trace, without a sign, and like water leaking out of a bucket a drop at a time, public interest wanes. The people down the street go away from a weekend instead of looking. A week later the next door neighbors take a day or two off to do some shopping for their kids. A month later and one of the local deputies goes on vacation. The parents still frantic search areas searched before and they search there again and again. The River must have gotten here, people tired of looking say, and this gives them the opportunity to tell their own kids not to play near the water, and it gives them an out to stop looking. A two year old will not be found alive if she wondered off by herself, no, not after this amount of time, and if she was taken…
            There is a certain sense of disbelief that I have when it comes to missing children. Perhaps this stems from the world in which I grew up, a very small town, where everyone knew everyone else, and how closely I was watched, not only by my mother and father, but by everyone else’s mother and father, and all the neighbors as well. Anyone with a phone and some idle time would report to a parent the location of a child or a group of children, and sometimes it was enough just to be away from the house long enough to be missed to be called in again. Infants never toddled off alone, and we older kids kept out eyes on the younger ones like eyes were kept upon us. It was a much simpler and safer time, but it was also the time in which Elizabeth Gill went missing in a small town.
            We have to live with the idea there are monsters out there. Elizabeth Smart can tell you about that, and honestly, it is a miracle her abductor did not kill her. Sometimes the taken are returned, never unharmed, never unchanged, but returned nevertheless and those parents can begin to live their lives again. Yet the parents of Elizabeth Gill if they still live, and those parents who children are missing they wait too. There might be some wild hope, some joyous reunion but each year the lines in the mirror say no, and each year passes and one day they realize their child is no longer two or three or four, but twenty- two or twenty-three, or twenty-four, and even if that child is still alive the childhood is forever lost. Elizabeth Gill, or whoever she is known as now, might one day realize she is not who she is supposed to be and may simply chose to accept her life as is, regardless of the past. That might be very rare, very rare indeed, but a child being taken by a stranger is rare too.
            I cannot help but feel the ache of an ill healed scar when I read about a child gone. Somewhere out there are parents, monsters, accidents, and the missing.

Take Care,
Mike
           
            

Friday, October 14, 2011

The American War


I never thought we would really go to war in Iraq because there wasn’t a reason to go to war in Iraq. Indeed, Bush I thought it was a terrible idea, and as far as ideas go, the man didn’t have that many to ride herd on to begin with. Colin Powell thought it was a bad idea too, and Powell was one of the few people in the Bush II regime who seemed to know what he was doing, or at least seemed to know what he was supposed to be doing. But Bush Ver 2.0, if you remember correctly, began stepping towards that war the day he started looking for help in finding a running mate. He picked Dick Cheney to head the process and Dick Cheney found Dick Cheney. At that time Cheney was vice president of Halliburton, and before it was all over with the war in Iraq was to dump billions and billions of dollars into Halliburton’s coffers.
            It’s difficult to conceive the war in Iraq was a contrived effort to enrich a few people at the expense of nearly bankrupting one country and destroying another. But looting and murder in the name of gold is as old as history itself. It’s difficult to understand how this happened in this day and age until you look back at our recent history and try to figure out why we went to war in Iraq, and realize there wasn’t a reason.
            Let’s look back at a few wars and see what we come up with as far as motivations and such to begin killing other people.
            The war on the native population of the Americas was all about getting their gold and taking it back to Europe and coming over here and taking their land. The war of independence of this country was one began with England trying to recoup its loses in the French and Indian Wars by taxing the colonists who resisting paying by rebelling. The War Of  Northern Aggression was one where the Southern States sought to avoid economic ruin by hanging onto slavery. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was precipitated by our economic sanctions on Japan. Our involvement in Viet Nam was one brought on by first trying to keep France from losing a colony from which they had sought to turn into a giant rubber plantation. The first Gulf War was entirely about who would control the oil resources of Kuwait. Most of this is oversimplification but the truth is wars cost money and they are mostly waged for money.
            The War Of  Northern Aggression is a good example of a monetary based war that was sold hard as something it was not. Rich white land owners convinced poor white Southerners that the Yankees were going to take away their rights if they didn’t leave the union. Of course, poor whites didn’t have many rights to begin with, had very little to gain from the present system. They would have been infinitely better off without five percent of the population holding onto ninety-five percent of the wealth, but Dixie was whistled loud enough and long enough to convince men to march off to war not only to keep other men in chains, but to protect their own poverty. Moreover, they had to supply their own weaponry, were poorly fed, many had no boots, and to be wounded on the field of battle meant being maimed or dying of infection.
            Do not presume to judge these men as ignorant hick-folk tricked into dying for a lost cause until you examine how much of your money, or your blood, was spent in Iraq, for reasons most people cannot express or comprehend. The money we sent over there, are sending over there, and will send over to Iraq isn’t simply disappearing into the sand. Someone is getting this money, and they are getting a lot of this money, they’ve gotten a lot of this money, and you cannot hope to expect they are going to want to stop getting this money anytime soon, regardless of how the taxpayers feel about spending the money.
            The people who orchestrated the second Gulf War lost no power as they gained billions of dollars. The same emotional factors used to fan the flames of war ten years ago still exist. The same voices of discord against reason are still shouting. The same people who make money off of conflict of any sort, be it warfare or the media who will make money off the rumors of war, are still out there waiting for another war to begin. The same people, who used duct tape, talk radio, and scare tactics to convince Americans that there was some sort of threat from Iraq do not want to push themselves away from the trough of taxpayer’s money even at the expense of the lives of American soldiers.
            If it is difficult for you to believe what I am saying I ask only that you review history. The difference here is the country being looted is the invading country by those people inside the invader’s government. Capitalism on meth has produced a system that can steer a country to war not to rape another country but to commit an act of robbery from within. Worse still, American military personnel return from the war to find a veteran’s system nearly broke and almost as useless. The economy dictates there are few jobs for those whose skills have honed in Bagdad and Kabul. We leave behind in those places both ruin and hopelessness.

This is an unprecedented act of immorality, murder, betrayal and treason.

So here we are with yet another American president beating the drums of war with some twisted and convoluted tale of assassination and drug lords. The economy at the brink of collapse, the banking system teetering on failure despite billions of bailout money, and with American troops still fighting two wars that seem not to have any end, and still we are seeking external influences with which to do battle.

We have been down this road before, people, and ever it may bring, whatever we do to stop it will be worth the price we pay.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Who Gnu?


They passed through silently, invisible and ethereal, with only some aura of enormity darkening the reality where their assemblage made their presence palpable. I felt them more than I saw them, and in the dappled moonlight of that night it would have been easy to dismiss them as shadows, but who is to say what happened, and what they were, and if at all there was anything at all there but me and two dogs? Of course, there was the moon, and certainly we are not going to awaken tomorrow with it gone and everyone realize it never existed. The moon is real, but just like far too many hallucinations of the mind, we can see it most clearly at in the dark, and truthfully, how many times have you dismissed something that did not dovetail with reality simply because it happened at night?
            Yet there he was, in the middle of the day, a man in a pickup truck that drove right past me, right past the barricade I was setting up, and he never hit his brakes. I caught up with him at the detour point, the place where the railroad people were taking the tracks out, and I asked him why he went past us like he did. Barricade? What barricade? He could have been lying about it but he really seemed to be genuinely confused. We rode back to where the barricade was and he looked at it as if it were a toad I had just thrown up out of my mouth. Did they bring that there after I went through, he asked and I wondered how the hell he missed it, but he did. His story is the barricade was not in place until he had returned. My story is he drove right past it. The two are mutually exclusive.
            So what if the man never existed at all? No, I’m not talking about him being some literary device, I’m asking what is the probability he never existed to begin with? He wouldn’t be the first person I knew that wasn’t there. Elbow told me she once called several of her friends one day trying to decipher if she actually existed or not, and if you can’t understand what she was asking then the rest of this is likely to confuse you.
            Here’s a simple test as to whether or not you should keep reading this; have you ever cried at a movie, or ever laughed at a movie? You know full well movies aren’t “real” but there you are having an emotional reaction to them anyway. You pay to buy into a story where people pretend to fall in love then break up or some other human event, and in the end, you feel emotion over something akin to children playing dress up. No, in point of fact, it is not a little more complicated than that. It is very much the same.
            I’m asking you to consider the possibility that a man who went past a barricade and claimed not to see it was an invention of my mind. Once again, I’m not saying this man is a work of fiction, I’m saying I hallucinated him, perhaps. Oh? That has never happened to you at all? You’ve dreamed of people and then awoken to emotional reactions have you not? How many times have you heard of someone dreaming their spouse had cheated on them and spent the next day mad as hell at them? But this was not a dream, you may argue, and I would agree but who is to say you have to sleep to dream? You meet someone new and have expectations on the first date but you really do not know the person that well. Who you think they are may or may not fit what you’ve already decided in your mind who they are, and when it gets right down to it, and it does, how much of who they are when you are with them is a function of who you perceive them to be? In short, they already exist in your mind before you actually know who they are. How much this affects them I cannot say.
            Do you see where I’m going with this on a personal level? We can agree if two people meet and like one another it changes how they interact, even if they’re just standing in line to buy groceries as opposed to two strangers, even if there were the same two people just a week ago. Forget what you know of me, or the Barricade Ignoring Man, and just for a moment ask yourself how those two people, one putting up a barricade and one ignoring it might interact, if you are going to accept people do interact subconsciously with one another. You might put forth that the man with the barrier was invisible because he is just that type of person, the kind who blends in well, and the BIM is the type to ignore others outside his own little world. Is it such a leap to believe that you will not see something that is there even though we both know some people see things that are not?
            How does all of this happen, this seeing things and not seeing things, and feeling things that were not there and buying things to feel that aren’t really there? Maybe it’s like some intracranial cosmic combination lock where someone, or some movie, turns the right tumblers and you feel or fail to feel. Maybe your mind is scrolling through what happened last night at home while you are at work and some song from 1977 comes on the radio and you remember s vividly that girl who allowed you to take her jeans off of her during that song and suddenly there’s a man talking to you about a barricade you didn’t see and you wonder just how much of a lunatic he might be. Or maybe it isn’t personal at all, and we’re no more than migrating brain waves who personalize these things much like our ancestors did full lunar eclipses and earthquakes. They thought these things were personal, intimate happenings, much as we perceive our thoughts to be. But to think of that girl in ’77 and that song you have to realize someone write the song, sang it, played guitar, produced it, marketed it, sold it at a record shop and decades later, someone played it right then and there. Who is to say our minds are not geared to random thoughts, like migrating wilderbeasts. who know little of where they have been and nothing of where they are going, and we pass these thoughts around as they migrate from one person to another, taking invisibility to one, blindness to another, love to a pair here, and a shared smile to gnu lovers, who gnu not why they smiled.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bills Come Due! Vick tosses away yet another game.


There is something poisonous about believing your own hype and the Philadelphia Eagles are discovering that the hard way. The so called “Dream Team” replete with high priced free agents and the newly anointed multi millionaire and alleged human being, Mike Vick, the Eagles were supposed to take the NFL by storm this year and win it all.
            But then again, maybe there is something poisonous about letting a dog fighting disease mongering ex-con pot head quarterback your team. Maybe, and this is a stretch considering the moral state of the National Football League, but maybe the other players on the team feel as if they’re a part of something so morally bereft there is some sort of wicked Karma lurking behind each play. The Ghost of Bulldogs Murdered are haunting the Philadelphia Eagles and so far, they are being dogged with a lot of very poor play.
            Mike Vick’s moral and ethical vacuum aside, he has never been a great quarterback for an entire season but he has been a less than average quarterback for a very long stretches, and they are in one of them now. They’ve dropped four games in a row, including a game last week that seemed out of reach by the fourth quarter. Remember last year when they were playing against the Packers and all they needed was one good pass in the end zone to live to play again? That happened again today with Vick tossing one of four interceptions that ended the game for them. If you can make Mike Vick think you can make Mike Vick blink.
            Vick is losing games to sub quality teams. These are not the best the NFL has to throw at him and he has to know that if he cannot win the little games then each game gets bigger and bigger. One interception isn’t a game ender unless you have already thrown three before and have allowed your opponent to run wild. Your opponent’s defense can take more chances when they’re ahead and that makes interceptions more likely. It’s a vicious circle when it comes to underperforming quarterbacks, and Vick has proven he can underachieve with the very worst of them.
            It’s a long row to hoe for a team that had such high expectations.  With eleven games left they have to hope to win most of them, let’s say seven out of eleven, and that will still get them no better than 8-8. That won’t get them into the playoffs, likely, so now every game they play is critical, and every play is crucial. Four losses this early isn’t a death sentence for any team but it’s a hole not easily climbed out of and there is no longer any room for error or emotional outbursts, the likes of which Vick has been infamous for in the past.
            Like Tiger Woods’ mental issues you have to wonder how much of Vick’s woes come from being who he is. Woods’ failures were of a marital sort, and in time he may find some way to forgive himself, and the public may forgive him too.  Yet Vick’s failings are another breed altogether. He has shown himself to be deeply twisted, cruel and inhumane to a point that is unconscionable and unforgiveable. The dog people are out there in the stands barking at him and howling in delight with every mistake, and there has been plenty to howl about lately. With each new failure, Mick Vick has to know time is slipping away from him, and any chance of that he will be remembered for anything other than a dog fighting disease mongering pot head ex con will soon be gone.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Last Few Minutes with Andy Rooney

The Murder Of Cale Timmons


I never meant to murder Cale Timmons but I did, and that is the end of that part of the story. I’m dead now too, or you’d never be reading this, but I wanted to set things right after I was gone so here it is. It was on August the 20th, 1992, and I remember it was the day before payday and it was ungodly hot. It had been hot since May and there wasn’t any kind of a break in the heat. It hadn’t rained for a spell either, but that day, just before sundown there came a short hard rain, and I remember that rain because I stood in it hoping the blood would be washed off of me.
            Cale owned me some money and he had told near everybody he wasn’t going to pay me because he didn’t have to pay me. I went over there hoping he’d give me some dope or something for the money, and I wouldn’t have stopped but I seen there was nobody at his trailer. That bird dog, Dan, was chained to the Chinaberry tree and I hated to see a dog live his life that way. Rain or shine, heat or cold, Dan was going to live out his days from a puppy to death on a ten foot chain and that was going to be his whole world. He had to hope Cale would remember to feed him, and put some water in that five gallon bucket, but dying slow or dying fast, Dan had seen everything he was going to see. I thought about asking for Dan for the money, but I didn’t have a place to put him either.
            Cale let me in and told me right up front he didn’t have no money which I knew was a lie. I tried to get some dope from him and he told me he was out and I knew that wasn’t true either. Cale wasn’t having much time for me, and it was making me mad that he was treating me this way, and he kept calling me boy and cussing like all of this was my fault, and as I sat there I noticed there was a gun on the table so I picked it up. I slid the action back, and it was loaded, and Cale cussed me again and told me to put it down. I knew he didn’t have money enough for a Glock, so I knew it was stole, and he told me if I gave him a hundred dollars and forgot the money I owed him I could keep it. I told him I wanted his money and I kinda pointed the gun at him, you know, so maybe it would scare him a bit. Cale got mad at this, and I knew I ought not to have done it, but he went over the deep end, and really laid a cussin on me then, he took his shirt off and told me to shoot him right there in the chest and laughed at me, and he said that I wouldn’t do it, and that I wouldn’t never seen a dime from him, and he was going to tell everybody how he took the gun from me, and slapped me with it, so I shot him.
            I wasn’t ready for how loud it was, and I had never seen a gun fired on the inside of a trailer. The smoke was worse than I thought it might have been, but I had never thought about it, really. The bullet hit Cale what looked like right in the heart and he fell over backwards hard. I couldn’t believe I done it. The whole thing felt weird like a dream and I started panting I was so scared. I threw the gun down but thought that if they came and took fingerprints on it mine would be there so I took Cale’s shirt and started wiping down the gun and it went off again. That made me drop the gun, but I had to get the prints off it so I tried again. That last slug went through the window and I hoped it didn’t hit nobody outside. I wiped down the doorknob and everything else I thought I might have touched and went outside. It started raining and raining hard, and Dan was there looking at me, not moving, not wagging his tail like he did when he saw me most times, but like he knew what I had done. I was scared he’d bite me if I turned him loose and it was hard leaving him there like that but it was even harder to go to the Sheriff and tell them what I done. I didn’t meant to. I could say that. It was a’ accident. The gun just went off and that was that, but I couldn’t.
            Jimmy Cox went in for hitting that Bronson kid in the head with a brick while they were fighting and he got three years for that. He wasn’t right when he came out, and his sister told folks he had to get an operation down low to get him right after what happened to him in prison, because of getting raped so much and all. They were going to sue the prison for it but they couldn’t get Jimmy to talk about it at all. Jimmy drowned just three month after he got out and they say that’s why, that he did it on purpose. Jimmy didn’t start that fight, and even if he did kill that kid Jimmy didn’t mean it, and it wasn’t his fault, I didn’t think, but I knew if they put Jimmy in they’d put me in, too, so I got in my truck and started to leave. I don’t know why I went back in after the gun, but suddenly I had to. I was going to throw the gun away somewhere, and I hoped that was a better idea than leaving it. I was scared. I didn’t really know what to do.
            Down close to the river, a couple of miles west of it on the four lane, there’s a beaver pond the state men never have been able to get rid of, and I think they quit trying. I throwed the gun hard and stupid me hit the sign there that told folks it was Lagdale Creek. I picked it up but a piece fell off it, and I gather all of it and threw hard. I heard it splash, and got back into the truck and left. Nobody came by. Nobody saw me. No cars or trucks passed me, and it was getting dark and it was raining. I pulled up in the yard and sat there and cried for a while because I had never known anybody to get away with murder. All I had was a single wide on a rented acre of land, but suddenly it was precious to me, and sitting in front of the tv watching a movie was something I knew I’d miss when they came and got me. I didn’t sleep much and my ears were still ringing.
            At work I tried to act natural. I told everybody that I had quit smoking the day before and it was making me weird so that was what everybody thought was going on. Not smoking made it worse but I knew I couldn’t hold it down without something to explain what I was acting different. Me and some guys went to the Pine Tree Restaurant for lunch and I got my burger and fries tried to talk about the race Saturday and if Johnson would win again. I wanted a cigarette so bad it hurt but that was all I had to hide why I was on the edge of coming unglued. If I picked up and ran all I had was a couple of hundred dollars and a ten year old truck. When two deputies come in and sat down across from us I knew it was up, but no matter how weird I felt, the world around me kept running normal.
            After work I went out and got a twelve pack, just like I always did, but it didn’t help. I made up my mind to stop smoking for a while, just to have an excuse for acting different. Another couple of hours went by and I realized I had gone twenty-four hours and not got caught. Maybe I ought to ride by and check, but I knew better. I thought about what I did every weekend and maybe I ought to do exactly as I always did. I couldn’t go out drinking and I knew it. I turned the tv on and drank beer until I passed out. That night I dreamed of being in a cell and there was a mob of men trying to break into and get me. When I woke up I knew I wasn’t going to go to jail. I couldn’t tell and I wouldn’t let them lock me up. My friend Bob called me and wanted to go fishing so I went. The quit smoking thing was something everybody believed and I wondered why murdering somebody and stopping smoking made somebody act the same. It was hard just to sit in that boat with Bob and fish but I knew I had to. It came upon me this was the same river Jimmy drowned in, and I wondered if we would catch a fish that had ate part of him. Jimmy was a bigger man than me and played football in school. What chance did I have if they did that to him? Did he give in after a while? Did it work that way, that a man was forced to try to bargain or trade off or do something to keep from being gang raped? I was so scared I had trouble keeping my pole still and Bob laughed at me and told me I ought to go back to smoking. It came to me I might never fish again, either, if I got caught. What if I got the chair, even though they didn’t do that anymore that was what most of us called it when somebody did. I thought about those fish down there and if they suspected there was something wrong and I thought about the law was already looking for me, or waiting for me to come home. Maybe somebody was there with Cale and I never knew and right now they were telling the story of what I done.
            Bob came over after we got done fishing and I hated him for it, but couldn’t think of a good reason to say no. I bought a case of beer and tried to drink myself drunk. I wanted to tell Bob, wanted to spill my guts, just get it out, maybe he could help, Bob was smart, he could help, and maybe there was a way out I didn’t see, and maybe there was some way out of this. Did Jimmy try to get out? What if somebody on the inside came looking for him after he was out? That thought scared me worse than anything else. Bob’s brother called him on the cell and Bob started saying things like, “Cale Timmons?” “Shot?” “When?” “and they think Cooter Scarbough done it?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Bob hung up and told me Cooter Scarbough had been arrested for killing Cale Timmons.
            Seeing Dan in the back of a pickup truck down at the Pine Tree was a weird thing. He had gone from a ten foot chain to riding in the open air but he still gave me that same look. He didn’t growl at me or shy away from me but stood there looking at me. Alicia Scarbough had taken him in after the trial and all, and I tell you, that trial was the hardest thing that ever happened to me. To see a man like Cooter Scarbough put on trial for something I did, knowing what they would do to him, was brutal. But Cooter had threatened to Cale if Cale didn’t stop seeing Alicia, even though it was Alicia who was sneaking off behind her daddy’s’s back to see Cale. They had even spent a weekend at Cooter’s house when he was gone to Florida, and it turns out there was Glock missing from Cooter’s gun cabinet. Alicia nearly did her own daddy in when she found the body cause she told them her daddy had killed Cale. The trial didn’t last very long because Cooter had too many people willing to say where he was. I sat in the courtroom and wondered how many other men like me had sat in that room and knew the truth of it while another man was on the edge. Alicia took Cale’s truck and took Dan in, and it was some years before she went back and spoke to her own daddy, and I hated myself for that.  The law thought he done it and quit looking after the trial.
            I wondered about the gun. How long did it take one to rust out or at least rust down to where they couldn’t tell where the bullet come from? A year went by and then another one after that, and then there was the day a new Sheriff, guy named Collins, got elected and he said he was going to open up a lot of the old cases and he came to talk to me about what I knew. Collins was from Macon and got busted up in there for beating his wife or such, and came down here to be a big fish in a small pond and folks bought into it. He asked me about if Cale owed me money and I told him that he did, but he had paid me before he got killed. He asked me if I had seen Cooter around that day and I told him I didn’t. Collins looked at me strange like and I felt funny again but I had lived with this thing for a while and I knew unless I said something nothing would ever happen to me. He asked me who did I think killed Jimmy Cox and I asked him why he said that. Didn’t matter, he said, just asking.
            I quit drinking after that. I started going to the meetings down at the church for drinkers, not that I thought I had a problem but because I needed some group of people that might be as bad as me. I was surprised to see some of the people there but none of them were surprised to see me. I started over in Valdosta at tech school and they taught me how to write computers up and I landed a job down at the battery factory and then got my own shop. I rented the safe deposit box you found this letter in back in 2001 and never opened it again. I knew when I died someone would open it, and now you know who killed Cale Timmons.

end

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Illusion Of Love


In the works of the better poets you get the sensation that they're not talking to people any more, or to some seraphical creature. What they're doing is simply talking back to the language itself—as beauty, sensuality, wisdom, irony—those aspects of language of which the poet is a clear mirror. Poetry is not an art or a branch of art, it's something more. If what distinguishes us from other species is speech, then poetry, which is the supreme linguistic operation, is our anthropological, indeed genetic, goal. Anyone who regards poetry as an entertainment, as a "read," commits an anthropological crime, in the first place, against himself.


There was the true story about the two guys who called 9-11 and reported they had barricaded themselves into their kitchen. It seems that a gang of men in a boat had broken into their apartment and began looting it. The Atlanta police were more than a little suspicious of this call because the men were in the second floor of a building and it hadn’t rained in a while. After the men allowed the police in, ostensibly to rescue them from the midtown pirates, the police discovered yes indeed this was a meth related incident and a good laugh was had by all of those who did not wind up in jail.
            Before you write this off as yet another meth induced downward spiral as so many of them turn out to be, please consider this’ both men claimed to have seen the Pirates of The Chattahoochee swarming through a window. Okay, that wasn’t exactly their story but you get the idea. Both men shared a hallucination. Both of them told the same story even though to most of us out here in not- ever- going- to- think- about- doing- meth-because- of-such-as- this- and- bad- teeth- land can’t see past the meth part of the story. But what does it say that too very stoned men can share a thought at all, much less the same thought?
            Okay, I’ll buy into Methhead Number One talking Methhead Number Two into believing there are Apartment Pirates boarding the second story window, avast ye, but what does even this explanation suggest, if you take the meth out of the equation? Can one person, in a heightened emotional state, carry someone else into that state, border crossings ignored, if they have reached some sort of mutual bond, and this part is important, regardless of how they reached this state?
            Regardless of how they reached that state, I suggest to you, that meth isn’t the defining condition here. Do not misunderstand me, please, if you are calling the cops because the Buccaneers of Buckhead are overrunning your balcony at Little Five Points, most certainly you have some issues and so does anyone seeing this with you.  Yet I cannot help but wonder  how two men on a drug made of poison and nasal decongestive happened upon each other’s minds somewhere between the Black Pearl and Jimi Hendrix. Here, in a Drano induced hallucination, two men barricaded themselves into a kitchen, together against a mad, mad, mad, world, and they issued a plea for help.
            I’m not defending what they did, or trying to give them some reason to ingest what might be the single most dangerous illicit drug made in a bathroom, but they, and many other drug users out there as well, may have been looking for something in Sudafed they could not find in the real world. Lacking the ways, the means, or perhaps the opportunity for some real connection, they rearranged their brain chemistry to connect to another human being, regardless of how dangerous it might be. It’s why both night clubs and churches are so popular. The chance to reach into a group of people, or reach out to one person, is enough to lead people to risk their health or even get up early on Sunday morning and be bored out of their skulls for an hour when they could be home drinking coffee and writing.
            The connectivity of drugs and alcohol is what makes both appealing to the lonely and the isolated. A human being may not be able to find love but that person will not have a problem finding someone to drink with late at night, and who knows where that will lead? Alcohol lowers inhibition and both good judgment and denim jeans hit the floor soon afterwards. Sometimes this works, sometimes it’s a disaster, and sometimes it is just what it is, and that is good enough sometimes. But I submit to you the search is the same within regardless of the medium used to get there.
            Love is more addictive than any drug, more habit forming than any opiate, more dangerous to the perception of reality than any hallucinogen, and a more clear and present danger to sanity than every drug combination known to humankind. Two people can fall in love and believe, truly believe, they can beat the odds of divorce and break-up by simple virtue of that feeling they have when they are together, and nothing else. They will believe it will last when it has never lasted before. They will believe there is hope when there has never been hope before. They will believe in a future that will bind them closer together, in a connection so strong that even Death Himself might not break that bond and this, you tell me, this is a delusion not much far removed from the Jolly Roger from the second story apartment window, is it not?
            Yet I do believe. Cold and sober in the lonely early morning dawn, I do believe. A half a century of evidence that is my life stands before me as proof against the illusion of love, but I believe. I do not think there is anything else to believe when it gets down to it. The wreck and ruin I have witnessed and lived and relived and seen again, should be ample and then again against my belief but it is not, and it will never be. I believe. My life would be easier if I did not, it would be much more simple to shut the window and turn away from the plunder that will occur to my heart but I instead stand on the prow of the sofa, and dare the pirating of my soul. There is no 9-11 to call for a broken heart. There is no rehab for love. There is no recourse, no treatment, no twelve step program, no turning back, no cure for this illness and were any of it available, I would not bother with it. Life isn’t reality at all but the common illusion of love makes it real. Nothing else is worth living for but love.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I post this at least once a year or so

The Key Of Music: For Matt Williams


I haven’t written essays or blogs for a while because I’ve been writing a novel and I’ve reached a point where I need a break from heavy writing so here we all are. Writing is something that you either have or you do not have, like the ability to play a musical instrument or the ability to shop with coupons. Some people just have the knack. You could attend all the writing class ever offered but if you’re writing doesn’t come from the soul you might as well be trying to play a piano with numbers painted on the keys.
            I’ve known musicians who practiced the same piece of music all day long trying to get it right. It drives people crazy to listen to it, but I’m here to tell you there isn’t another way to do it. If there was some other way to do it, the people who play music would do it some other way, trust me. It’s frustrating as hell to know that somewhere right in front of you is the sound, and somewhere deep inside of you is the key to unlock that sounds, and you’re trying to thread a needle to get the two sown together. Yes, I did men that the way I spelled it, by the way, and if you’ve ever nailed down a piece of music to where you’re heart and soul and spirit is happy, truly happy with it, you know exactly what I mean. Writing is like that too. I know when it’s right. I know when the story is told. I know when it says what I am trying to get it to say.
            The odd thing about music is unless you’re recording your sessions if you do get it right and it is perfect, it can be gone forever without anyone ever knowing it was there but you. You may be able to replicate something from memory and you may be able to bring something back from sitting there and just playing around with an instrument, but there will be times you create something that exists only for a moment in time, never to be heard again, and you will be the only witness. People wonder why musicians are so damn odd and it has a lot to do with just that. They create worlds that disappear in an instant but music is truly of nothing but the human soul, released, and amplified, and I deeply suspect those who create music believe whatever they play, when they do it just right, even if it isn’t heard by anyone else or recorded, that music exists still, in some form, somewhere, waiting for someone else to catch it again, and release it back into the wild, where only those who make music can play.
            I know a poet who writes everything she does out in longhand, on paper with a pen. She does have a computer but she likes the way it feels and looks to write, really write, with ink, and work around the mistakes by scratching it out, marking through things, and getting messy with it. I like that style even though I rarely write that way. I can’t write by hand quick enough to keep up with my thoughts and honestly it’s hard to do with a keyboard. But show me a musician who strums an acoustic guitar and backs it up with a harmonica, and I’ll show you the musical version of longhand with ink. These are the people who go bone bare, shunning the electronics that prop up some lesser mortals. Here is the heart and soul of true music, that born of a human being’s heart and an instrument that will tell on you if your talent is lacking. Show me someone in front of a small crowd of people with just the barest of necessities and I’ll show you someone reaching back into the dimmest memory of human beings, when music was first created. There, the greatest of great great grand parents of us all, had the guts and the skill and the need to play music for others who could not, and in that, what we know as music today was born. Live music, when played with just the instrument and skill of the musician is viscerally and wholly human. It is part of who we are as a species. It is what makes us a tribe. It is what separates us from the physical world me live in and takes us to a place created by those who play music. They live there and we are only passing through, but a simple man with a guitar and a harp and a heart, can open a door the rest of us cannot even see.
            The creation of written music is one of the greatest of all human inventions. The soul of one human being can be transferred through the ages. Recorded music serves the same purpose and now we can be lifted beyond the ordinary day by people we may never know in any other way.  The instruments played could be wielded by a woman, a man, a child, a black, an Asian, a young white man with pimples, a redhead, some aged soldier of many gigs whose times is ending soon, but in an act of totally equality, the music moves us to a point we question not once whose lips or hands it passed through to sooth our souls.
            As you pass in front of some lonely street musician, with a nearly empty guitar case, remember that you take for granted what you cannot create. There in front of you is a door to a universe you cannot visit without the sweat, blood, and endless efforts of that one person, and those who came before. Remember that this person will come out to that spot and hold open that door for you, and in return, asks only enough to live with. The musicians hold open a door that we cannot see, and only through their efforts, do we hear it.

Take Care,
Mike