BLOG THIS! Highly Suspect Wisdom for the Widely Disinterested Masses
On ABC this morning, Chris Christie ripped President Trump's legal team as "a national embarrassment." He said Sydney Powell accusing hard-right Georgia governor Brian Kemp of crimes without evidence was "outrageous conduct by any lawyer." What she alleged, with threatened evidence "that will be biblical" once revealed, includes (and this isn't a joke, I watched the entire interview) a plot by the Biden campaign to pay off Kemp to help switch votes using poll workers "trained in Venezuela," a massive fraud which was put into place by Hugo Chavez (who died in 2013). "Notice they won't allege fraud inside the courtroom," Christie said. "Only to the media." Hey, if you thought Giuliani was not only senile but leaking, this woman makes Nurse Ratched seem balanced and rational. "It is time to admit that Biden won," Christie finished, but not before Sydney Powell admitted the real evidence she's been holding onto is that Archemedes developed the fundamentals of math in 288 B.C. as a long-range plot to influence vote tallying in the greater Atlanta area (back then known as Lower Mammon) since the toga-clad traitor was aware, three centuries before Christ first emerged from a Nazarene tent, that the only way to stop the future ascension of Donald J. Trump was by craftily making basic addition, and thereby ballot counting, unprovable in court. Leave it to the sneaky Greeks to destroy the MAGA dream. So, time to give up, time to give in. Trump won in a landslide. Moving on.
Okay, which of these four lyrics, through sheer radio repetition over long mid-80’s nights, when you would immediately reach out and snap the dial in anger because you preferred a blast of static to the ear-worm to follow, came closest to ruining your teenage years?
You may only choose one. And please, no wagering.
1. Robert Palmer "Bad Case Of Lovin' You"
"A hot summer night, fell like a net, I've gotta find my baby yet, I need you to soothe my head, and turn my blue heart to red. Doctor Doctor, gimme the news, I got a bad case of lovin' you, no pill's gonna cure my ill, got a bad case of lovin' you."
(No, but a shot of penicillin will probably do the trick, Bob. Okay, next in line on this Twofer Tuesday, Robert Palmer with "Addicted To Love.")
2. Steve Miller "Abracadaba"
"I heat up, I can't cool down, you got me spinning 'round and 'round, round and 'round and 'round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. Abra, abra-cadabra, I wanna reach out and grab ya."
3. Van Hagar “Higher And Higher”
“Run, run, run away, like a train runnin’ off the track, the truth gets left behind, falls between the cracks, standing on broken dreams, never losin' sight, spread your wings, we'll get higher and higher, straight up we'll climb, we'll get higher and higher, leave it all behind.”
(Trains/tracks/cracks. Dreams, broken or otherwise. 'Nuff said.)
4. Sting “Russians”
“Mister Krushchev said, ‘We will bury you’, I don't subscribe to this point of view, It'd be such an ignorant thing to do, if the Russians love their children too, how can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy? We share the same biology, regardless of ideology, believe me when I say to you, I hope the Russians love their children too.”
(Nope, Mr. Weapons-Grade Pretension, turns out all Ruskies hate their kids. Ah, well, we tried. What do you do with a nation full of child-haters? Negotiate? Mass-adopt? Write an album full of equally insightful songs in protest?)
I was asked in April to contribute a piece of fiction to a Pandemic Anthology, which I immediately wrote a draft of but then forgot all about, too occupied by other strains of madness and the slow Jack Torrance-izing of my quarantined soul, and so missed the deadline. This little piece has remained a sad file on my emotionally withholding laptop, but has now broken the pixel-surface gasping for air and seems especially timely now.
A Letter For My Infant Son, To Be Read In Thirty Years
Amidst this all, my wife has given birth. We have an infant boy, so beautiful even his midnight wail suffuses me with love. And so, being somewhat prescient, I have decided that during the Swine-99 outbreak of 2050 my son will be a young and struggling writer. Therefore I have decided to pen him a letter, with actual ink on actual paper, to be unopened and unread until the age of thirty. Hopefully, as a paring knife bites into the crease of yellowed envelope it will not only carry but deliver true meaning. A flash of recognition. A bolt of not-quite-lightning from the not-entirely-believable past. Or, maybe just act as a fleeting diversion in a time that is almost certain to be so much worse than it is now.
November 3rd, 2020
Well, madness abounds. Of course, as always, there is beauty within the madness, or possibly formed because of it. There is no lasting art that did not arise from some sort of deprivation, whether great or small, from pandemic to plain ennui. "The Sorrows Of Young Werther" didn’t write itself, you know? On the other hand, maybe I’m really talking about the bushes in front of our porch that have barely survived over the last ten years due to lack of light, but have somehow bloomed this month, flowering for the first time ever! I know you want to become a novelist, which is for any of us an agonizing decision on myriad fronts, most especially the one where you are almost certainly doomed to failure regardless of your evident or complete lack of talent, as all realms of art are as far away from both the meaning and practice of meritocracy as is mathematically possible, and so I’ve often thought about what kind of advice I might provide you. Then along comes this virus, which has gripped the world like Tommie Smith's raised and clenched fist, making it apparent, or even more apparent, that I know nothing at all. Who am I to give you counsel? But, if forced at vaccine needle point, I suppose I would say that it is in this time that those who would artfully record their honest and emotive perceptions are needed more than ever. There are refrigerator trucks full of bodies parked outside funeral homes in the Bronx, idling with diesel fumes even as I type this, and that fact alone can and should bring one nearly to tears, but perhaps afterward also prompt the reflection (delivered as a groundbreaking avant-garde verse poem in the Homeric tradition?)—that it is essential to take stock in what we really want in this life. In this world. To be wealthy and famous? To have the respect of our peers? To go to bed every night knowing we accomplished at least one genuinely exceptional thing? Or maybe we secretly welcome the chaos and nihilism, our deepest desire to abandon the false shade of community and connection, wanting only to be left to our devices, hermetic, in pure silicon despondence, forever addled by the Tyranny Of Small Technologies.
Sad, I know.
Perhaps this is not information you care to possess about your father, or worse have already astutely presumed, but I am inclined toward pessimism and despair. I do not see a rosy future. I drink heavily and low into the mist late at night, naked in the back yard, strangling the neck of a bottle of near-empty Gentleman Jack, fearful of the lessons our leaders have taught us so well: there are no solutions, nothing can be fixed, we are, as beasts, doomed to doom ourselves.
And then I stand over your crib! I kiss your hands and feet. I smell your sweet pea-n-carrot breath, dear Brexit, and my depression fades. The world is beautiful after all! It cannot be denied. We will find a way through this because we must. For you and all the tiny Brexits like you. And so I wake refreshed, make scalding coffee and bacon and eggs and little baby sausages and toast with real creamery butter and I know we will all be okay.
Listen, it has been a century since we have been swept with something so virulent as this, and I often find myself thinking back to 1918 and the Spanish Flu and those who endured it with no bulwark except a faithless faith, their rudimentary medicines and unrefrigerated food, the spittoons and lack of hand-washing and weaponized sneezes, not even a rudimentary conception of atoms or bacteria or the near perfection of the RNA of a virus. The terror of not knowing if the plague, biblical or otherwise, would ever end. Or even if it did, still might come back every Spring until it cleaved into the last of their hearts and lungs and there was no one left to sweat themselves away under a dirty blanket upon a dirtier floor, without even a mild understanding of what afflicted them.
We are lucky, after all.
Okay, so here’s my advice: just like saxophone or juggling or ballroom dance, it is essential to practice feeling. Diligently and with rigor. To bathe in it, drink it, immerse yourself beneath its crashing waves. Right now, even before you finish this sentence, begin to hone your ability to touch, to finely tune your tactile senses. Be vulnerable. Be aware. Experience fully. And then write those experiences down. In lines, paragraphs, couplets, sestinas, columns of pure reportage, HTML prompts of fake reportage, short stories, long stories, Checkovian novellas, endless Dostoyevskian tomes. See everything around you. Embody true perception. Be a camera. And then record it all. Let the flash recoil, allow the celluloid to burn, invite the silver nitrate to absorb the sun's rays. Take a photo in words. Let us know, without pretense, posture, or aforethought, what you truly know.
I am sorry to tell you this, my son, but it’s possible that in the end, that's all there is.
Twelve days of creeping terror until armageddon and thus I am compelled to offer a snap of Charley as solace. She's not much of a rat deterrent, in fact they point and laugh at her while sunning their bellies in the yard noshing on wedges of Swiss, but it's entirely possible that I will take a CBD bath and stare at this picture for two hours tonight instead of watching the debate. I thought, hey, why donate money to a swing state senate race or man a phone bank or volunteer to be a poll worker or knock on doors and hand out brochures, when this could be my sole contribution to Making America Breathable Again? So help yourself, friends. Gaze deeply into her eyes. There is wisdom and comfort and possibly a martyr's 72 virgins in there. There is, if not relief, a brief respite from trepidation.
I was backing into the garage yesterday when I almost ran over a huge rat in the middle of the driveway. I stopped, as it was now under the car and didn't want to run over it, but also didn't want it to scurry into the garage and hide/start gnawing through the sheetrock. I got out and grabbed the leaf blower and gave it a good blast. The thing didn't move. Its fur did, like it was Auntie Em battening down half of Kansas before the tornado, but it refused to budge. I pulled the rest of the way into the garage and it was still there, so I went inside, figuring it would just wander off. An hour later I looked out the window and it was in the same spot, walking in demented circles, now closer to Brad Davis circling the obelisk in Midnight Express. It wobbled and slogged and crept, always counter-clockwise. I happened to be on the phone with a friend and described the scene. He said "just go kill it with a shovel. You don't want it burrowing into the house." "But it has a little pink nose," I said, knowing I was hopelessly soft and effete at heart, and always would be, "I think it's sick." He laughed, "All the more reason. It probably has Covid. Give it the Marie Antoinette." I hung up and tried to write but couldn't concentrate, went back to the window and watched the rat circle for an absurdly long time. Something had to be done. I went outside with a shovel. It didn't run, just hunkered down and stared with eyes of fathomless melancholy. Its sides were distended. I wondered if it was pregnant. Or possibly about to explode from the nerve agent Putin slipped into its saucer of tea. I cursed a series of gods, mostly Grecian, before moving onto Rome. Neither Minerva, Ceres, or Hephaestus were any help. I raised the shovel. The rat seemed to extend its jaw like a captured Ronin smoking a Gauloises, "Just make it a clean cut, eh?" And then I had a realization. This was all a play. Performance art. The rat was Karen Finley and we were doing a post-modern take on Mother Courage set in Pandemic times. The helplessness, infirmity, pointless circling, potential violence, encroaching mortality, control & power, discipline & punishment, the shaft and steel edge of unforgiving faux-Libertarian governance poised above our collective neck. Yeah, I didn't kill it. I picked it up gently and laid it under a grove of ferns, with an easy path back into the scrub. Maybe, for once, I had done a good thing. Dispensed mercy over convenience. The next morning it was still there, on its side, stiff. Two crows, jet-black and evilly beaked, no doubt dispatched from the shores of Acheron by some lesser demon, picked at its body. The sun tried, and failed, to break through an endless haze. It was a singular if too convenient metaphor for where we are all at, right now, today, in America. I swung the shovel like Greg Luzinski trying to park one in the upper deck. The crows avoided it with ease, cackling as they jetted off over the nearest roof. I scooped America Rat into a plastic bag, knotted it three times, and laid it in the trash.
A while ago my boy Greg Olear asked me to write something for the Sunday Papers edition of his newsletter PREVAIL. During the week it's straight journalism, concentrated almost entirely, and with astonishing depth, on nearly every aspect of current politics, but particularly Trump and his administration (if it deserves to be referred to as such). And unlike many other efforts of that stripe, Greg has amassed (earned) a huge following. On Sunday he lets off the gas a bit, allowing room for all varieties of fiction and other pre-election literary indulgences. In any case, below is a link to the very short epistolary story I wrote entitled "A Letter For My Infant Son, To Be Read In Thirty Years." There's an intro by Greg, and then the story appears below. Hey, check it out.
We suddenly have an invasion of ants, First time in twelve years we've had a single one. We also now have rats. I can hear them digging and burrowing around the side windows at 3:53 in the morning. I get up and they stare at me like, "Yeah, what are you gonna do?" The smoke from Eastern WA and California and Siberia is so thick we can't open the windows or go outside. It's like a bad movie with a lesser Baldwin about a volcano, except this one doesn't get miraculously put out with a nuke or a helicopter full of pudding right before the credits. You can't inhale without gagging and supposedly breathing the air without a mask for an hour is the same as smoking ten packs of Lucky Strikes, and even walking the dog seems seriously unwise, if not insane. And there is, of course, the hovering cloud of mucousy aerosolized Covid that every single person you pass is potentially coating you with. Still, we're lucky here in Seattle. It's grim, but it's not the end of the world. Or is it? Can anyone make a cogent argument for current politics being even remotely defensible? Let alone the motivations of these imbeciles as pictured above? Are some people really too dumb to be alive? If everyone at this rally were hauled away in a convoy of trucks and turned into mulch to seed the gardens in Sudan, would the world be one iota worse off? Of course, the supposed moderates will cave, as they always do, and RBG will be replaced with a FOX talking head who thinks the John Birch Society, if you really think about it, actually had a few good ideas, but screw it, health care is Socialist tyranny. Of course, no one who thinks that had last second emergency pancreatic surgery and spent the final seconds of their life paying off mob-Kaiser-debt, but screw them, if they weren't so weak, John Galt, they wouldn't have gotten sick at all, would they? Meanwhile it's all Ronnie James Dio all the time here in Seattle, because vaguely satanic and truly, deeply stupid music is the only thing that makes sense anymore.
Today In Fat Celluloid #2: As mentioned previously, I've decided to post some images I made between 1987-91, during the time that I was certain I would go on to be a filmmaker/photographer. For various reasons, both obvious and obscure, neither of those things happened. All the images in this series were shot on 35mm film with a Canon AE-1, using natural light. They were hand-developed and printed. The prints have been digitized in order to share them this way, but none have been digitally enhanced. Today's Fat Celluloid is called "She Walks The Line."
Today In Fat Celluloid #1: I've decided to post some images I made between 1987-91, during the time that I was certain I would go on to be a filmmaker/photographer. For various reasons, both obvious and obscure, neither of those things happened. All the images in this series were shot on 35mm film with a Canon AE-1, using natural light. They were hand-developed and printed, first in a collegiate darkroom and then later in the tiny darkroom (converted closet) in the apartment on Guerrero Street I shared with my then-girlfriend (not happy about the loss of sweater-hanging space) in San Francisco. I used an ancient Beseler enlarger, thrift store bins, and suspect chemistry, but it worked. The prints have been digitized in order to share them this way, but none have been digitally enhanced. Today's Fat Celluloid is called "H & A Day-Drinking In The Upstairs Apartment."