Archive

Archive for January, 2020

Invisible in the hallway…

January 22, 2020 1 comment

I can still remember. Those days.

Being a teen. Lost in crowds and hallways and only feeling safe in my room, or after a quickly slammed 6 pack paid for with money my Mom thought was for a post-game burger and fries.

Most of us had no confidants. We were on our own…….navigating the ups and downs and further-downs of adolescence, with only our acne and insecurity for company. Sleep was a refuge, the only time when we didn’t have to make up our own dreams. During sleep they came on their own….like the previews you aren’t expecting before the movie. So…..on the weekends we’d push on until mid-day. Pleasantly oblivious.

stressSchool was a 6+ hour battle royal intended to jump-start every neurosis we’d managed to keep in check during off hours. Filled with bullies and stoners and freaks and mindless jocks and girls who, if you caught their eye at all, would only giggle. Classes were a hodge-podge of things you didn’t care about mixed with things you could not retain despite constant attempts at rote memorization. If you had any type of gift at all that didn’t involve a ball of some kind, you felt like a freak and kept it to yourself. Even the teachers seemed bored, falling through the doors at the end of the day with the same 1000 yard stare you had. School was an endurance test.

I remember watching the movie “The Exorcist” in this kids’ basement when we were maybe 14…..and then walking home with this other guy, and neither of us able to admit to the other that we were terrified. Then we reached a long dark alley that we had to walk down, and at the same exact time we both took off on a dead sprint until we reached the lighted main road. We just started walking again and didn’t mention a thing. In retrospect this sorta summed up being a teenager for me. If you don’t talk about it, it never happened.

There was no how-to book. If you messed up being 13, you didn’t get a do-over. And if the girl you loved didn’t love you back, chances are that shit wasn’t gonna change when you were 14. Everything was life and death…..and there was no sense of time other than “forever”. You would be this awkward forever. Stuck with the big nose of jug ears forever. Afraid of that guy forever. A stuttering mess in front of that girl forever. Terrified of the devil and Max Von Sydow forever. And you would never, ever get laid.

You were taught, always, to conform. To respect authority even if you knew they were full of shit. If you disagreed, you were never right. Even if you found an alternate, more scenic route that still got you were they wanted you to go, you weren’t allowed to take it. The finish line was not the only thing provided to you.

You searched for ways to not feel this way. The drink or the joints or the pills that made it all go away for that hour or that weekend. The music that allowed you to get lost in a different part of your head, the part that screamed rebellion. That part that wasn’t scared of its own shadow. You found the books that would shape you….or the films that would inspire you. Or maybe the musical instrument that would help you tear down the wall.

It was a constant tug of war. Between wanting desperately to fit in, and being so tempted to finally say “fuck it” and break free. Being in that straitjacket, but secretly knowing how Houdini always managed to get out of it. What would happen if you finally stuck your head above the parapet? Somebody is gonna shoot, that’s what.

But that’s what it’s all about, and it takes the teen years to bring this into focus. Some never get past the crushing conformity, and the rules that aren’t written down anywhere but everybody is expected to know. They go off into the world with their conference championship trophies and their squeaky cheerleader voices and sing “Glory Days” when it plays on the jukebox at the same bar that winked at their first fake ID.

And some run for the hills and dodge the bullets and never look back, and have been causing the right kind of trouble ever sense.

I can’t imagine being my teen self now. With what’s out there. The haves and the have-nots and the trolls around every online corner, and the 100k a year debt for a degree that promises only that your resume will probably get read at least before they throw it away. Forty years ago you got the sense that the game wasn’t totally fair, but not that it was rigged.

I remember. The good parts and the bad parts. And the floating between that 2 that make up most of those years. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. You’re still invisible in the hallways.

Even with the passage of time, some of those same fears appear, like weeds in the cracks of a sidewalk.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Off to the library

January 16, 2020 Leave a comment

Like lots of other folks, I’ve become, gradually and almost imperceptibly, a degenerate Netflix/whateverelseyoustream junkie. I can easily blow a six hour hole in my day, slumped in sweat pants and surrounded by carbs, binge watching the latest can’t-miss offering. I’m also one of those pains in the ass always asking for recommendations….and giving mine even when it’s not really asked for (British cop shows……in case you’re wondering. Broadchurch and Happy Valley).

netflixwatchingstillBut you know what happens. One episode turns into two and then you start the “well….just one more” phase of the evening, and before you know it you’re asking yourself (and Netflix is pathetically asking you..) if you should start the next season or just call it a night and before the sun rises. It’s slothful and an intellectually lazy way to stimulate what’s left of our brains, but it’s become the new normal. And it’s kinda weird how all of us are so incredibly busy and can’t find the time to do so many things (like exercise or get to the store or the bank etc…)….but can easily block off the time to watch both seasons of that creepy show You in a single marathon.

(that stupid creepy show is the new “Who’s on First”…..I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this….

“I’m watching you”

“Um…ok but why?”

“It’s a good show.”

“Oh, I thought you meant you were watching me.”

“No, I’m watching you. Why would I be watching you?”

“Wait…what?”)

I’m reminded of this because I have always been an inveterate reader. Over the years I’ve accumulated my own library of over 1000 titles. At the height of my powers, I was plowing through two or more books a week. I’d read nightly for a few hours before bed. I’d read during my lunch hour at work. I’d read in the car while waiting for my kids to get out of school. I’d have different books started in different rooms. Novels and memoirs and history tomes. When traveling my bag was always the heaviest because of the books crammed inside it. And when coming home it was even heavier because I could never go anywhere without buying more.

(I tried the Kindle……and it worked just fine……but I turned out to be one of those irritating weirdos who needs the feel of an actual book in my hands, and the device now sits in a drawer with all the cords that don’t fit any device anymore. It will never be a.used or b. thrown away. Because…..well…..you get it. And yes I’ve since bought used copies of many of the books that I downloaded to the Kindle….because I’m so well-read and….er…..smart…)

At the close of 2019, I realized that over the past year I hardly read at all. I was busy Netflixing. As a direct result of not reading, I wrote less than I had in years. Writers read. They adore words. When they’re not encased in them, they don’t write. There’s a vast difference between conjuring up the images in your head that the prose is describing, and letting somebody else do that for you on the small screen. That isn’t to say that some of the stuff I’ve seen over the last year hasn’t been pretty powerful, but that the heavy lifting was done for me, which means I didn’t learn all that much.

So all this much change.

It should probably change starting today, since last night I re-watched 3 Sopranos episodes (until 1am) from season two while surrounded by the 3 books I just ordered from Amazon. Clearly a self-pep-talk is in order. But I’ll get there.

My father used to stand over me as a child when I was mindlessly slumped watching TV and announce to the room that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. I ignored him then but he probably had a point, as only something like demonic possession could explain some of my subsequent choices in my earlier years (He seemed to get smarter as I grew older). Nothing irritated him more than to waste time, and nothing makes time-wasting easier than a television.

In retrospect, I never did anything remotely worthwhile in my life until I started heavy reading. It awoke me from an intellectual slumber, which is another way of saying you can either read or remain stupid forever.

I’m off to the library. Don’t wait up.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

War drums

January 8, 2020 Leave a comment

There’s talk of war. Not the best way to start off a new year. But yet here we are.

quote-and-when-the-drums-of-war-have-reached-a-fever-pitch-and-the-blood-boils-with-hate-and-julius-caesar-146-56-77War should always be a last resort, if indeed it needs to be a resort at all. But too often in my lifetime it’s been the first option….the result of men (it’s nearly always men) waving their dicks at each other, trying to rile up their respective bases. War is a great diversion, which is why a leader who lacks self-confidence and has managed to get himself into deep shit at home is always the most dangerous on the world stage. And since those who start wars have almost never fought in them, all they know of war is what they’ve read. History. Learning from it. But if they’ve proven themselves to be largely, functionally illiterate, well……you can see where this is going.

Nobody except soldiers see what war is. What it feels like and smells like and tastes like and what killing does to a human soul. The men who start wars don’t do the killing or the dying. That part has never really changed. It’s an awesome burden to carry…..knowing that with one word one can unleash this type of fury. We like to think that word only comes after many long nights of intense soul-searching, huddled with experienced soldiers, drawing up the pros and the cons. If it’s at all worth the blood of the innocents? Once we go in, how do we get out? If we break it, do we have to buy it? I mean….this might be reasonably expected in a world that wasn’t upside down. But now? This crazy fuck might have ordered it because Greta Thunberg was named Time magazine’s person of the year.

To wage war and sacrifice lives to gain political capital, or because you don’t think your ass is getting sufficiently kissed, seems to me the worst type of treason imaginable. But maybe I’m just hopelessly old fashioned.

War sells though. It sells newspapers and magazines and is manna from heaven to cable television. It can even jump-start a stalled economy. It gets packaged like a Hollywood spectacle. Shock and awe and bombs that look like Disney World night after night. The dying is invisible…..done mercifully behind the scenes, and mostly by non-combatants who just get in the way. Once it kicks off dissent is all but crushed. Somehow “supporting the troops” does not include not wanting them put int harms way in the first place.

Over and over….it happens. We blunder into what becomes a disastrous war. We cook the books. We make up the “intelligence”, or even more brazenly we just say there is some and then never divulge it. The press seems skeptical at the beginning, but eventually are carried away in a tide of frenzied nationalism and become de-facto cheerleaders. Coffins are flown home under the cover of darkness, and if we’re not touched personally by a casualty, it’s pretty easy to ignore the entire thing by turning off the TV. When it’s eventually over…..everybody too chickenshit to say “hey….what the fuck are we doing?” at the starting line will write books that ask “what the fuck were we thinking?” once the butcher’s bill has been added up. And we pledge never to do it again, Until the next time.

This may all blow over. It may not. It may escalate. It may smolder. Iran may have intentionally missed US targets in their retaliatory strike, in an attempt to simply save face. Or they may simply be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Nobody really knows. Talk is big on both sides….nobody is going to admit to the smaller penis. That’s not the way these things work. So we just sit and wait……

Nobody mourns the death of somebody like Qasem Soleimani. He was a bad guy. Blood all over his hands. Yet the world is filled with bad guys with blood on their hands. We don’t have enough weapons to take them all out. And we do seem quite selective in our condemnation. President Trump slobbers all over Putin and Kim Jong Un,  calling them “friends”. I’ll be willing to bet that both of them are responsible for more deaths than a gangster like Qasem Soleimani. How do we measure such things?

I don’t have any answers. Australia is on literal fire….and the Middle East awaits a lightning strike. We’re burning ourselves down.

I don’t know why…but I’m reminded of this quote from a past US President who was a bit more….er….eloquent than the current occupant of the White House..

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

We used to use words as something other than a tweeted cudgel. I miss such times…

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized

Post-Christmas Blues…

January 3, 2020 Leave a comment

There’s nothing more depressing than taking down the Christmas stuff.

Because that means it’s over. All that holiday cheer is gone, and it’s ok for everybody to start being a dick again. We get about a 6 week reprieve every year…..from pre-Thanksgiving to post-New Year’s, which isn’t bad I guess. But it goes so fast. It feels like the tree just went up…and now the living room looks distinctly un-festive. The dog gets his regular spot back. The chair is back where the tree was and now there’s a big empty space where the chair used to be, which I only really notice now. The cat is staring at the chair wondering why it doesn’t have branches she can climb. And our President is #BeBesting once again, this time by trying to pick a war with Iran via assassination. Expect the entire Persian Gulf region to become destabilized. That always ends well.

Trump tweets Obama IranBut hey……the front pages aren’t talking about impeachment at the moment, so, you know….WAG THE WINNING DOG! American boys are gonna die over this one….and it’s not gonna be the sons of the same rich white talking heads who led us into Iraq doing the dying. And it ain’t gonna be Trump’s sons. (One might expect the recruiting offices to be suddenly packed with adoring red MAGA hats after this latest strike. We shall see, eh?) The poor always do the dying. At the moment, almost in an instant, no American in the region is safe and, as usual with these things, nobody seems to know what the end-game will be.

Just felt like that needed saying.

One thing you can say about America and Americans. We don’t learn history, so it’s all the excuse we need to not learn from it.

Christmas music is gone….and as I write this my Spotify just spit out Tommy Tutone’s “Jenny” followed by “Bus Stop” by the Hollies…..which is probably meaningful in some way but I’m too sad to hash it out right now. It’s gonna be 10 and a half months before I can listen to Elvis sing “Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me” again, and that’s just not fair.

The weather has been pretty civil so far…..but that usually means we’re about to get bombed by some freak storm or a teeth-chattering cold front that’s gonna make my face hurt whenever I go outside. I despise wind. Unlike our big boy President I do understand it, but I just hate the whole wind-chill thing, when they tell you it’s 30 degrees but “feels like -21”. For the next 10 weeks or so I’m gonna be miserable and cold and there won’t be any holiday lights to distract me from the fact that the defroster doesn’t really work in my car. All that we have to look forward to now is the Saint Patrick’s Day parade day hill section brawl videos.

I’ve already blown my New Year’s resolution, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” just came on in my head. One of my all time favorite songs. I never sing it (in public….in private I belt it out like a bitch) because to try to sing like Steve Winwood is complete folly. But it never ceases to provoke a reaction from me. Weariness. Sadness. Resignation. Contemplation. It suddenly seems the perfect song for the post-Christmas blues. For a few weeks at least…..it seems like we find what we’re looking for. Home takes on a whole new meaning. It’s warmer and safer. It smells lovely. It’s lit up, literally. Our very own beacon on a hill, even if we live in a valley. And then the lights go out and it’s still dark at 5pm and it’s like coming home to a bunker again. If we can find it at all.

And so the new year will march relentlessly on. The “peace on earth and goodwill towards men” has already been swallowed up by the fog of war…..pretty much making a mockery out of what we claim to stand for these few weeks out of the year. The hungry will be hungry again. The sick remain, and often can’t afford to get well. The killing continues.

Our defenses are back up……and that car we waved into the lane will just have to fucking wait now.

“White Rabbit” just came on. An absolutely staggering song. And I’m reminded that it’s now being used in commercials for a cruise line.

We are completely doomed.

Good luck Bubba. We’re all gonna need it. Bring on Thanksgiving 2020.

In a bit..

–tf

Categories: Uncategorized