Friday, December 30, 2011

Little Hitlers Cause No Wars

Adolf Hitler was fascinated with the idea of “The Law of the Jungle” where only the strongest survive, and they preyed on the weak. This belief held all the way down to the end, with Germany in ruins, and Hitler stating that the Germans had brought this all on themselves by putting him in power.  Hitler surmised that if Germany did not win the war then they deserved total annihilation, and this is what his beliefs led to for one nation and for about sixty million people worldwide when the war ground to a halt. Hitler’s thousand year Reich last less than a decade. The same people he had labeled as subhuman would occupy his former capital.  Those who had most fervently followed him to ruin also followed him to death via suicide.

We look back in hindsight with no small amount of revulsion at this man and his followers as symbols of the ultimate in evil. It isn’t hard to do. In fact, it is quite easy to make a case for Hitler and Nazism to be held up as an example of a time in history where one man’s idea grew to a terrible and incredible wickedness. The argument against Hitler being the ultimate in all things created evil is usually made by those who still see salvation in the twisted cross of the swastika. History will be unkind to them as well, for they seem to be little more than disenchanted societal dropouts looking for a scapegoat for, or a Hero to, their inabilities.  In Hitler they find shock value, and rightfully so, but I suspect that is all they will find, and I suspect it is all they truly have.

Yet here we are, seventy years later, and even though we give great lip service to how Nazism could not rise again, certainly not here in America, and certainly not in this modern day and age, the evidence of some of Hitler’s teachings are not spoke aloud or preached, but they are instead practiced silently.  Hitler’s beliefs are not institutionalized not by the government but are instead dictated to us by economics and poverty. We will not condemn the Jews to ghettos because of their religion but we will condemn children to live in ghettos because their parents are poor.
While no one is being taken by rail to the showers the end results is there are people who are being killed simply because of who and what they are. The volume of death is not the same but this lessens the evil by degree, not actuality.

Think about it like this; the German people were told that a group of people called “Jews” were such terrible people they deserved to be treated as if they were less than human. Laws were enacted to ensure they were a criminal class of people, and they could not under any circumstance rise above this. Their children were to be Jews, and they were to live only with Jews, never to mix with those of the pure of blood.

Now think about how you would feel if someone moved in next door to you and they were instead of Jewish, a prostitute. Now, before you get all weird on me, I am not equating a religion with prostitution, and for those of you out there who are insulted by this anyway, allow me to apologize for insulting the prostitutes. At least their trade is a product of necessity, but religion is a choice and I assure you, there are more reformed prostitutes than religious zealots. But back to the street walker who lives next door to you now.  Maybe you rather call her a “Hooker” which is a term used to describe those women who followed General Hooker’s camp in the War Of Northern Aggression. You will not, in point of fact, find a reference that describes the men who kept them in business from that point in history, or for that matter, many others. The men who have kept flesh sellers on their backs for centuries have mostly gone unnoticed, even though they are responsible for half of the equation and all of the money.

Ah, but suddenly, if you’re living next door to this woman of the evening, the men who come for service might not be the type you want standing around your front yard smoking cigarettes. Yet, generally speaking, men who get busted for using whores are not nearly as prosecuted, or persecuted, as those women on the receiving end of their desires, no pun intended.

So Hitler, truly and terribly demented, and homicidal, decided to go after the Jews, as well as any other group of people considered to be an underclass, and the people of Germany jumped on the bandwagon, and you, yes, you who are all shocked and shaken by the presence of the doxie next door, you would not dream of putting up with something like that, would you?

Strip away the labels we put on people are just toss them together as a function of consequence and what have you? Your top serial killers and Adolf Hitler have something in common; both classes of lunatic went after victims they knew, truly knew, were the most defenseless socially. Both classes of lunatic used not just murder, but savage, soulless, and brutal murder to mark their prey as less than human. Both could not be sated but continued to kill even as murder became what undid them.

Look at how many terms for these women I was able to recall from memory while writing this. Look at how many of those terms didn’t really shock you, or outrage you, or cause you to blink an eye. How do you feel about these women? How concerned are you about those killed by some serial killer on Long Island? Because they are just minor Hitlers, not killing millions and after all, are only killing whores, it’s not nearly as bad as going after a religion, is it?

Is it?

Then why haven’t we fought a war to stop it?

Take Care,

The Clunkers, the Spanish Russians, and the Cypress Holocaust

The Okefenokee is a place of splendid solitude, I told her, and it is a place you can stop speaking, breathe, and hear nothing but the sound of the trees living, and the wind and the birds, and the odd sounds that The Swamp will give you, but never noise. It is a place where time ceases to exists, and where cell phones do not work.  It is a place where two people might get away to themselves and speak plainly and openly while walking and no one but the deer and fish would hear their voices. The Okefenokee, I say to her, is magical and beautiful, and quiet.

The ride to The Swamp is magnificent, with the approaching canoe trip seemingly already begun. The road stretches before us long and straight, and the sun comes up bright and warm, the sky clear and nothing in the way of a day spent on the water in the woods, with birds calling and perhaps wildlife standing in the shade of the cypress trees, posing perfectly for photographs.

When we got to the park the evidence of the fire earlier in the year was apparent. It was worse, far worse, then the fire of 2007, just four years ago.  The damage to the tree was more severe than I expected, and as we drive deeper into the park the more obvious, and horrible, the sight became. As we pulled in there was a small crowd of people loading canoes, and there were noisy people, speaking loudly and loading a year’s worth of supplies into each craft, and wandering around without purpose. We waited for them to get ahead of us, but finally gave up and got into the water what was left of it. I have never seen the water level so low in The Swamp. Worse still, and the two words “worse still” will reappear here again and again, worse still, the banks of the canal leading into The Swamp had been mauled by the fire, and clear cut, a lonely deer stood in the ruins as if she were the only witness left alive. The camera died too, the batteries no longer capable of sustaining life, much like the burned out banks of the Okefenokee.

No sooner did we reach the wide channel, or what was once a wide channel, in The Swamp, did we realize the damage was far worse, much more worse, than I ever feared or imagined. The water level was horribly low, forcing all the canoeists into a smaller area.  The people ahead of us were loud, and behind us were another group, so we pulled over to the blasted western bank to allow them to pass.  It was a terrible sight. Nearly every tree was scorched and many, many, many, many trees were now gone. Those that were left looked like the survivors of Hiroshima, standing in mute shock, to stunned by the violence to escape the scene of the carnage. The shade of the trees extending over the water were gone, and even had the trees been there the water was gone, too.  The deep dark red black water was gone, and replaced by a muddy colored stream that looked more like something you’d find in a theme park than the greatest natural swamp left in Georgia.

Those people ahead of us we could hear, but from behind us came the sound as if someone were dragging a logging chain down a paved road with tin cans attached to it. Again, we let them pass, and this was a mother and father, with a teenaged girl in front of the boat with the mother, and a tiny five year old in the front of the boat with the father. They banged and clanged with paddles against their canoes if the boats were sonically driven. We nicknamed them “The Clangers” and waited a while to let them pass. Far, down the river they went, like a sound driven disaster, mirroring the actual damage by the fire.

But there were more and more and more people to come. In a place where I could have counted the people I’ve seen totally in the years on my fingers and toes, suddenly the holocaustic Swamp was an amusement park full of inept boaters who could not hear the silence of The Swamp and would not allow it for others. We got behind a man and a woman speaking a foreign language that sounded like Russian and they could not control their canoe, and they zigzagged their way in the narrows, blocking us from passing, and causing more people to bunch up behind us like lemmings at the edge of a cliff. Everyone was heading for Billy’s Island, and it was like a traffic jam there, with canoes and canoeists littering the bank. The dock, usually flush with water, hung five feet in the air, useless for unloading or extracting a canoe from the water. We managed to get out boat out of the water, but the Clunkers came behind us, having taken a side path. The father tried to beach his canoe with his little girl in front, instead of backing in, and I had to help pull the thing to shore. The man was close to true stupidity, trying to get a boat out of the water with the heavy end still in the water, and a five year old trying to get out alone.  Getting him back into the water was also more fun than it needed to be, and I wonder, truly wonder, if he really knows what happens to people in the water when the air temperature is below sixty.  Hypothermia can, and will, kill a child before you can get her dried off, or back to somewhere they can keep her warm.

Billy’s Island was already populated by the Russian speaking people, but they were now speaking Spanish. Everyone had arrived at once and there were more people on Billy’s Island than there had ever lived here before. The trials were crowded and even though we had a good conversation with people from Atlanta, who had never seen such a crowd or the water as low, there was no wildlife to see. The Spanish Russian had made camp in the middle of the trail and we had to walk around them. A nice little bench in the middle of the forest might have been a good place for a break but this was rush hour and there was no semblance of privacy to be had at all.
 We lost most of the crowd on the way back, and we totally lost track of the Clunkers. They were ahead of us, noisily setting the pace, and suddenly we did not hear them anymore. But the trip back to the landing revealed more damage, more dead trees, more burned growth, and no sign that this was some sort of rejuvenation of nature. We asked the woman at the landing if she had seen the Clunkers and she seemed uninterested in their fate. The Okefenokee is not what it was and I am not sure if it will ever be again. I would have rather died than to have ever seen such a sight as I have seen and I can only hope that somehow, nature can heal her own.

Take Care,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Lavatory Lovestory from Bellerofonte on Vimeo.

The Long Road

The road to my father’s house is always long. There isn’t a way to make it shorter. I once had friends in Thomasville I could drop in and see but at Christmas their road was much longer than mine. They spent two days on the road at Christmas, first getting up at dawn to dive to her parent’s house which was only twenty miles away,  but by lunch they had to go back home and drop off the toys her parent’s had given their two kids, and then on the road to his parent’s home which was seven hours away. They would spend the night there and come home the next day and all the while the kids were yelling and screaming about wanting to go home to begin with. No one on either side of the issue would give an inch because of that insane idea of having Christmas at someone’s house is more important than Christmas itself.

We did that for a couple of years when I was a very small child and it was worse back then because there were three of us kids and we lived in a very tight knit little neighborhood. We wanted to get out and explore Christmas gifts with the other kids, but we were boxed up and taken to our grandmother’s house two hours away and wouldn’t get back until dark. That only lasted a few years and then everyone started coming to our house Christmas morning and that lasted until the divorce then we started having two of everything there for a while. The two Christmas and Thanksgiving ordeal still goes on to this day, except we finally have just one Thanksgiving at my sister’s house now.

The road back is long. The place where I spent the worst part of two decades of my life is packed with ghosts and dead memories, long past attempts at growing up and drunken swipes at good times. Most of the dirt roads are gone now, and we never saw that coming, like most things, but no one ever realized roads themselves where transmutable. Once was, at sixteen, you could park a car in the middle of the road in the middle of the night and stand there and take a leak, drink a beer, roll a joint, make out with a young girl, and traffic didn’t exist. You could pull off into any field and there was nothing but darkness and stars and hope. Rarely was there any sort of interruption and that was not nearly as rare as meaning, but we weren’t sure what that meant any more than we were cognizant of the world around us that might change.

On the outskirts of Blakely there’s a small motel and I think it was there before the town, actually. I spent forty dollars, back in the early eighties, for two night there, for a long date with a woman I loved, and lost, and had regained just for a while longer. I was going into the Army, she was a single mom all of a sudden, and it seemed like what we had lost in the High School we might have again. There was alcohol and pot, and a lot of sex in two nights but there wasn’t anything else. To me, what else was there to have? I was twenty-two, and broke, with no car, no prospects, no outlook past what was in the last bottle, no future past the next erection, no sense of obligation except to keep the illicit drug industry alive, but I did love her wildly. She had left her daughter with her parents and she missed the child and I did not understand that, could not understand that, and when a friend picked us up to take us home after those two days we went down that same road that I had to travel to get to Christmas, and I remember it still.

The road has been changed, though, and now it’s a four lane where there was once only two, and there’s a by-pass and the woman who was still a girl with a daughter is now a grandmother because that daughter has a daughter. In the blink of an eye everything changed and now all that is left that was the same is the motel at the edge of the town I cannot stand but have to come back to anyway. There is the house where the first young person I knew died of cancer. There is the house where the first person I knew whose father died when we were still in High School. There is the house where someone I knew was killed along with his brother in a car wreck. There is a spot where there was a restaurant, now long gone, just a bare patch of land. There is the old pizza place, long since turned into other restaurants, but that is where I fell in love with pinball. There was a liquor store there where I bought cheap booze when I was sixteen. I know where each and every side road leads and each and very side road leads nowhere, just as they always have, and just as they always will, until they in turn, are changed or destroyed.

I feel like a ghost, recalled from the dead, to haunt where I once lived, in the name of the past. I pull over in the parking lot of where there was once a place that made good pizza, and where I learned to play pinball, and I wonder about what happened to the man who ran the place, and made the food, whose name I never knew.  I made a drug deal in this very spot in 1978 and bought a pound of pot, and that was going to be my ticket to big time drug dealing, and I wonder if the man who ran the pizza place had dreams as big as mine. I am likely older right now than he was when he made pizza, and I always thought he was ancient.

The road back leads past all these places, but now I am surfacing, driving upwards and outwards and into the future, not the past. Christmas is over and the town where I am but a ghost recedes from my rearview mirror and resides only in the form in which you see it, for yet another year.

Take Care,

Henry Miller said "Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music — the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself."

There's a Catch

Take a single man playing a kid's game and give him a few million dollars a year, and he still can't raise a kid while he's doing it. Give a mom a glove and she can not only catch a ball, but give her kid something to talk about forever, once he's old enough.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I finally reached this place.

yes it is a real town, in Georgia

The Novelist Oren Arnoldhad the following Christmas gift suggestions: "To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

You and Bob

Suppose you had a friend. Let’s give this friend a name, your friend ‘Bob” and Bob is someone you met when you were a little kid, so little, you really don’t remember meeting Bob because you two were infants playing together when you lived next door. Your parents and Bob’s parents have always been friends, too. In fact, you went through school with Bob, each grade, and nearly every class. Over the years you two have defining moments that really couldn’t possibly mean anything to anyone else. You remember the day Bob kit a golf ball with a baseball bat and the thing hooked wicked and hard, arcing towards Mrs. Redfern’s plate glass window was if it were one of those smart bombs, and as it streaked towards the window you both stood there in horror because right there behind the window was Mrs. Redfern reading her paper, doing her crossword puzzle with her cat in her lap and there’s the little white ball going to… and at the very last moment, a squirrel jumped from the roof of her house down to the ground to eat some of the birdseed spilt there, and that damn squirrel gets nailed by the golf ball, dead center, and deflects the ball harmlessly away. Mrs. Redfern looks up, having caught the action out of the corner of her eye, but she can’t see anything. Bob and yourself fall over dead laughing, cheering, the relief so strong it’s nearly sexual.  Later the two of you retrieve the dead squirrel and bury it with the golf ball. You keep thinking one day the two of you will dig it up again but oddly, neither of you ever bring it up again.

            But you and Bob go on to High School together, and play baseball for the team, you in left field, and Bob playing center. Your team is good, but loses the championship in your senior year 15-2, but you and Bob score those two points, and somehow, you both feel like you took away more from the defeat than your opponents did in victory. College is a blur of good times and all night study sessions and suddenly you and Bob are looking at getting real job in the real world.   Bob winds up with Diane Holton, and you knew those two would make a break pair, even when you were dating her. Had to break her in for you, is how you joke about it with Bob, and with anyone else that might start a fight but not with Bob. You get married to Diane’s first cousin, Lisa, and people talk because the two look so much alike, but you don’t care and neither does Bob.

There’s no way the two of you find a job together and that’s okay because you live on the other side of town and that’s not too far. Things are different, but everyone knew it would be one day, and Diane gets pregnant first.  You and Lisa try as hard as two people can and you lie awake at night wondering if it’s you or if it might be her, or maybe both, but they have doctors that can help. Then one night, very late, Bob shows up and he’s clearly upset and he wants to talk to you, in the car and he turns up the music way too damn loud and has to shout in your ear for you to hear him. You think you hear the word “aliens” and you think this might be an immigration issue of some sort then Bob starts to write thing s down. Bob thinks there are aliens in the woods behind his house and he thinks they want to steal the baby.

Here’s the thing in all this; everyone goes to the movies because they want to see something spectacular and unreal, but when it gets right down to it, no one wants anything like that in their own life, or in the lives of the people they know. You try to talk Bob down from this and you’re surprised he’s so adamant about you not saying anything out loud about it. He gets physical and loud when you say the word aloud and clearly he’s very upset. He makes you promise not to mention this to Lisa or Diane, but you know you’re going to have to explain why Bob woke you both up at two in the morning. And you don’t have to wait very long, either. Diane and Lisa are already talking and when the two of you get back Lisa is standing in the yard talking.

Of course you feel like it is a form of betrayal when the three of you get together to talk about him behind his back. These two women have no idea who they are talking about or what they are talking about but you have to admit to them, and to yourself that Bob has slipped a cog, that something is wrong, and this isn’t something that spending a few hours butchering wood in the shop over a few beers will solve. Bob has quit his job and he spend all his time hiding in the woods and stocking up for the invasion.

So finally you go with Bob into the woods and he tells you there’s a mother ship and the aliens are pouring out of it like ants. Halfway there you realize he’s packing a gun and now you realize the women were right and something has to be done. The mother ship, of course, isn’t there and Bob laments that they moved, knowing he was bringing someone to prove they existed, and he is sure he can find them again. You ask Bob if he remembers the squirrel and you think it’s time to dig it up again.

The day you drive Bob to the hospital he’s holding an ancient golf ball still pocked with dirt, You and Bob dug a hole the size of a grave trying to find it, but there it was, still in what was left of the old tin lunch box, but there were only tiny bone fragments of the squirrel. You hope the meds keep Bob quiet until they get him processed in but he loses it and goes in screaming. The drive home is silent, lonely, and tense. As you pull into the driveway you notice lights are dropping from the sky.

Take Care,

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Christmas Apocalypse

If there is ever some weird Mayan Apocalypse the people of America are going to be ready.  Every weekend since Thanksgiving we have practiced for it. And now, in the last week, preparations for the end of the world have been in full swing.  America is ready for anything and everything. The Four Horsemen might as well be selling rides for a quarter at a petting zoo in Cleveland. That nation stand ready for a full nuclear war, locusts, a two hour dancing with reality stars on an island television special and Ebola on pop tarts.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the weekend before Christmas is upon us and next to that there is nothing more stressful or frightening known to mankind since the two words “President Quayle” were first spoken.
Anywhere anyone is selling anything is packed with people who want to buy something. People like me, who ordered online, had it shipped at the last moment, and now are frantically realizing not even Fed-ex is going to throw us a package over the fence, are freaking out. Well, I’m not freaking out because I went out for some food and just came back home instead.  I’ll be damned if I’m going into a building with that many people in it unless there’s a football game going on, or at least some beer. A homeless man set up a booth on an overturned shopping cart and put out a sign that read, “Half off” and it’s standing room only under that cart. Plumbing supply outlets now have people wandering around looking for that perfect gift. I swear I passed a junkyard that had some people browsing.

You could sell radioactive altars suitable for Satan Worship and you’d get a hundred people walk in and, one, see if it was cheaper on Amazon and two, ask you if you gift wrapped.

If you sold gift cards where the money went to driving the whales into extinction and hauling the dead carcasses to Elementary School as playground equipment you would sell out before anyone really asked you if this included porpoises, too.

If you put up a nativity scene in the shower room of a maximum security prison for the sexually disturbed, the criminally insane, and the sexually hyper, people would stop and take pictures of it to put on Christmas cards.

I swear to dog this year seems to be the worst ever.

The one local store we have has cars parked directly in front of the store where there are no parking spaces. People are so driven, so bent on shopping, all other considerations are now gone. The time it would take to walk across a parking lot has become a hindrance to survival. I cannot imagine what it looks like inside that building right now. Christmas is still two days away so no one has to start cooking right now but just the act of buying food has become a quest. It’s a mission. It’s a pilgrimage. For some people getting everything done right damn now has become an issue so personal it’s like they’re having sex with their credit cards. They’re putting more effort into buying stuff than I would getting Angelina Jolie to undress in front of me. After a while, after some point, isn’t there a time when you just have to admit it isn’t really worth it? I’m talking about shopping still, try to focus.

There were people trampled to death on Black Friday.  A woman piked a crowd of shoppers that same day. Bodies were left pushed to the side so people could spend money on gifts. People were robbed at gunpoint. People died in car crashes. People put money on credit cards they know damn well they will not be able to repay. All in the name of getting something to put under the tree some people will break their personal budgets and their families will suffer for it. I can only wonder how many dogs are dumped out or taken to the pound after Christmas, living sacrifices for that perfect gift.

You have to wonder how much money is spent on nothing at all. All that pretty gift wrapping paper, and the packaging it came with, well, it’s all headed for the landfill. All the boxes all that stuff came in, yes, it too is headed for the landfill. The dead Christmas trees have to be disposed of and you see many alongside the city streets with tinsel still covering their now dead branches.  Miles and miles of packing tape,  tons of broken ornaments, and that cheap plastic throw away junk Wal-Mart sells as yard decorations are all headed into the earth where it will not decompose but it might wind up in your drinking water one day.

In two days’ time I will once again get into my truck and drive two hours to my father’s house where my sister and I will spend part of a morning and an afternoon. We’ll leave and I’ll drive two hours back home, and Christmas will be over for another eleven months or so. Hopefully, I wouldn’t get killed on the way home, and hopefully, everyone there last year and this year will be there next year. But I also hope that one day the madness will end and Christmas will one day mean something more than a nation’s moth-like attraction to conspicuous spending.

Happy Festivus,