Sunday, July 12, 2015

Episode 577: Fill Your Hands

Let me paraphrase some great minds for this column; you can view this as my mind unleashing its neural Roomba and organizing the clutter.

"Insanity is performing the same actions, over and over, and expecting different results."
- Albert Einstein

"If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."
- Anatole France

"Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum upon which to set it, and I will move the world."
- Archimedes

"Qui tacit per alium, facit per se."
- A Latin legal term meaning, "He who acts through another does the act himself." It is a fundamental maxim of the law of agencyThis is a maxim often stated in discussing the liability of employer for the act of employee.

According to this maxim, if in the nature of things the master is obliged to perform the duties by employing servants, he is responsible for their act in the same way that he is responsible for his own acts.
"Bold talk, for a one-eyed fat man."
- Ned Pepper
"Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!"
-Rooster Cogburn
"Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte... just delivered the bomb. 
The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know that when you're in the water, chief? You tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. 
Well, we didn't know. 'Cause our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent, huh. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin'. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. 
You know it's... kinda like 'ol squares in battle like uh, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark goes to the nearest man and then he'd start poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark would go away. 
Sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. 
Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces. Y'know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don't know how many men, they averaged six an hour. 
On Thursday mornin' chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, Bosun's Mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well... he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He's a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. 
And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb."
- Quint, Jaws, 1975

Friday, July 3, 2015

Episode 576: To Hell with Death

To hell with the dead.

There isn't a lake of fire into which our souls dip, there is only the creaking and popping of tendons and ligaments as the mortician arranges our decomposing meat into suitable viewing poses.

The only honest reaction to death is Irish - get drunk and tell stories about what dumb ass things the dead did when they weren't dead. They were people who hugged us or shared a beer or patted us on the head when we fell off bikes. They are not noble angels swimming in the tears of cherubs. They're just dead. We miss them. The weeping is for our loss, not theirs.

Don't cling to the memories of the dead any more than you cling to the memory of the mailman you had ten years ago. Keep the happy close and the unhappy closer, but don't dwell or steep in the stored misery. Burn every bridge you cross.

A friend of mine killed himself, a few years back, but I don't remember the end, I remember the beginning and the middle. I remember why I liked him, not why he is gone. To hell with the dead.  They turn into sacks of meat that feed worms - what I recall is my living and fretful friend, not the wailing as we gathered to try to explain why he swallowed a shotgun. Be mindful of the ending of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," where the mental patients scoffed at the idea that the lobotomized MacMurphy was anything but a shell ... 

What we are in life is what we are. When our story ends, it is up to friends and family to carry on in recollection. Was he a "suicide," or was he a walk-a-holic guitar player who spent his life working to aid his fellow man? End of guilt, in my mind. He was what he was.

I won't weep when my mother or father die, because their story ended - I will recall my dad buying me a Burger King hamburger after I lost a wrestling match, in High School, or my mom laughing pridefully and uproariously when describing her children's antics to a friend. The aging, bent-back weakness that life hurls at flesh is not the sum, just the period at the end of the sentence. Remember the passage that was so eloquently written before the punctuation, if you will.

To hell with death. We don't become "Angels." That's not even a part of Christian mythology. We rot and feed the Earth, which is much more beautiful and awesome than any fairy tale with which you care to rock yourself to sleep.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Episode 575: Sushi and Falafel

I deal in art, friend. My endeavors are in such a subjective area that one could say "I am horrifically mediocre" or "I am groundbreakingly novel" and both would be correct. Rare than address that further (I shan't), I will begin the beginning of a story, open and naked like a phonographic caterpillar, and then my column will be done and it will be good or it will be confusing and bad.

I wish to give advice to an imaginary young New Yorker, but instead of calling him "Neil," I shall call him "Paul." I took great pains to search out Paul as nomenclature, as many other male names have unwanted associations - Saul, as if on the road to Damascus, has been usurped by a TV lawyer. Noah is the current most-popular name for boys, which makes me think of entitled toddlers with BMWs before diaper training and trust fund teeth. Don and Edward and Jon and Michael I have used before. Calvin is too reminiscent of religious anal-retention and John Glenn's thighs.

Therefore, Paul, since life is amazing to no one, except as it can be described with drama and tension, I warn you against women named Carol and Alison - never because they are misguided harpies or malicious canaries, but because they begin the heartbreak experience, and you don't need that, yet. It is a necessary thing, to want what is unattainable, to lose what one desires, but I feel a paternal need to shelter you until such time as you can bandage your own bleeding.

Trust not love or attachment to heal. Trust that your soul can handle rejection or connection with aplomb, and relish the sunsets as equal to sunrises. Be aware that pain is useful and fun, and pleasure can be a tiresome burden.

Paul, I promise you, sushi and falafel are too savory to sample late in life. Do not take pride in actions untaken or roads avoided. Perhaps a cliff was dodged or a thrown brickbat prevented, but women like a man with rough hands and scars. Well, the women you will like, anyway, enjoy such fleshly brandishments. Live not as if you want to live forever, but as if you expect to die tomorrow and hope not to.

There is no museum that is a complete waste of time.

There is no love that counts as complete failure - even brief and physical efforts of the purely lustful nature can teach something about hygiene and the benefits of a splendid pair of shoes.

Paul, don't shirk from anger, nor shelter it in a closet that can be broken open. Unlock the door from time to time and admit that your rage is as valid as anyone's. Don't save your angst for a rainy day any more than you would save a tender endearment.

Don't assume you are admired or disdained, only ensure that your actions bring forth admiration from yourself. Try to teach with patience, and try to learn in the same manner.

Respect and observe the transitory nature of all things; do not fear change, cause it.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Episode 574: The Prevarication Metaphor.

Write about what you know, the adage instructs; advice for writers, young and old, how to pontificate with unimpeachable veracity.

We storytellers are liars, by definition, fantasizers of what we want and dread. What has happened to me, of late, is the suppression of the desire to share experiences. I've circled my own wagons and disdained the concept of attempting to entertain. This is an untenable platform for an author.

I crack the bindings of my own prison by painting; no matter and where, nor for whom, I like to make pictures. I basically fail at art, in that I can't evoke the myriad impossibilities of life in a manner that can be absorbed without explanation. I paint for my own arousal. I should write for the same reasons.

I have been in love and in lust, and I still feel a yen for connection whenever I meet a person with whom I feel a unexpected kinship. This past week, I spent too much time in King of Prussia, PA, at a hotel that offered not just beds, but a suite, with a full kitchen and living room, and fed guests a nightly complimentary meal, as well as - wait for it - wine and beer on tap, gratis.

I'm an anti-social socializer, a reluctant gossip. I love to meet people and hear their stories and yet I hold back that "me" part of myself that I used to display, when I wanted to unveil the wondrous soul of me to new acquaintances. I play the pocket dullard, educated and polite, but baleful and dull, with nary an anecdote spun to generate amusement, nor harrowing tales to impress with my derring-do. I am unsure whence fled my ability to tell a tale.

I am not woeful or woebegone; somehow I know that the jet engines will wind up again. I should explain that metaphor, as if can: when I was young, a wee lad, my family would fly (on Eastern Airlines, Im Pace Requiescat), and my early memories and quivering exuberance that is associated with flying came from the idling whine of the jet engines. You know the sound, of course, an impossible pitch and volume that can only be a machine of that power. The jet engine is a marvel of the mockery of God, a Babel-esque finger flip at the Deity. God may have made purple mountains majesty, and bald eagles that can shit on rabbits from an altitude of 5,000 feet, but man made a shrieking, vibrating rotor fan that could deafen an unprotected eardrum, capable of lifting hundreds of thousands of pounds of human flesh, ginger ale and flip flops for thousands of miles.

The sound of a jet engine is all potential, as it hums, ominously yet loudly. As the airplane taxis around the concrete maze, the engines cycle, revving with promised terror as the pilot needs a burst of power, until the moment arrives, when the takeoff route is assured, the tower has signaled clearance, and the jetway is clear, and those massive, impossibly loud sirens begin to wail in earnest, and you can feel the titanic weight of the airplane's aluminum skin shudder, as the brakes are still clutched, bucking against the wail of the engines, and then the banshee howl of the engines peak even further, and the thrust implacably pushes you back into your seat, and the impossibly heavy metal tube roars skyward, to the sound of an engine doing what engines do:
They roar. They may vary in volume, as they wind up, but when an engine is told to "go," the engine goes.

The smartest person I've ever known (aside from your humble narrator) was unable to play chess.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Episode 573: Spring kicks Winter's Ass in Every Way Imaginable.


Whenever I am smitten with thought, intrusive radar rays penetrating my Podunk mien, I take stock as if inventorying my speeches.

I avoid my own traps of what I might want to say to your eyes, wound in a spiral tightly of a threadbare catwalk; bound by truth and honor but fearful of offense. And so months pass and I misplace my ability to communicate, trepidated by fondness. I master banal. I recall times different and situations similar, smelting iron allegories into prefabricated tool dies of expected results. 

The spaces between steps are a curious devolvement. Infinitesimal yet somehow interminable. Springy new shoes are needed, like seven league boots for navigating the novel.

I cast my glances forward into history, shadows against my  theater screen, a silhouette in reverse of what the audience witnesses. But still we are mesmerized by the production.

As the seasons change, a calling is felt, a heat that has scaled innumerable previous inquisitions, and scales fall away and my eyes are once more blue.

The world pricks me and I bleed and I cut into the world and find the others whose corpuscles I would suckle. I would never wish to be further distant from a select few than I have been this cold, cold stretch and I return to being the fool with the silver tongue that I play best. And I hope my favorite flavors remain on reachable branches to be savored when ripened.

12 walls surround the edifice,
unbreached by lightness or light
so the blood doesn't touch any more.

The East Northeast wall is orphaned
By a scourge of whimsical blight
a disease wretched enough to bar the door. 

When the world doesn't sleep, together.
A loss as one a night undone, a huddled
Mass of refuse rising off of the floor.