blows my mind

So my buddy was telling me about somebody he knows who somehow knows one of the really, really big Hollywood producers, like, just hugely big, like, you know, worth bajillions of dollars and produces movies and tv and whatever, whatever it is they do, and in that sick Hollywood culture people would literally just drop down on their knees and suck his dick to just to get him to read or to look at their, you know, script or to get it produced or whatever so and the guy is you know and he, and he lives it and acts it and he’s so absolutely full of himself to the point he’s just this bizarre Hollywood sick shit, you know, like, this guy, you know, I mean, he just absolutely believes he is as big and as amazing as these people treat him and they do. And what’s so interesting about that is he knows this person who knows this producer more closely and in fact has spent time with him at his home once a year for like thanksgiving or something and the guy this producer guy is the same at home and the people around him at home treat him the same way as the Hollywood sycophants all do so this guy’s life is like it’s as sick at home as it is elsewhere he’s so absolutely full of himself that, that, that, that no matter where he is he has to be sort of treated this way, and acts this way, this sense of, you know, this sense of, deserving, that he deserves all of this, I can’t think of the word there, but … and so, and so, and so I’m thinking about this and thinking god, how do you get like this? How can you possibly be that way? And so I’m thinking about it and I was struck by a really weird thought that so if you took this guy and everything he’s created, like everything he’s created – all the tv shows and all the movies and everything he’s done and everything he’s created and you just could somehow just erase it from history or just pluck it out and throw it away as if it never existed, and what struck me about that is that the world would not be any worse off – at all – like not at all, like nothing would be affected in the world some other movies or tv shows or whatever would fill in there and if we did not know what we’d seen, even if we enjoyed one of his movies or whatever greatly, even if we knew that, but if we didn’t know and it wasn’t created, it would have zero effect on the world. Like none whatsoever! But if you think about this if you took one teacher out, or one nurse out, and what they’ve done in the world, you know, it would have a very profound effect on the people who, who learned from them – or they cared for or whatever, you know, it would be a hugely profound effect, and it’s the same like with our sports stars, I mean, we pay these guys like millions of dollars to like run down the field, or like slap a puck really hard , or kick a ball or do whatever it is, you know, but if you take anyone of these billionaire, millionaire, I guess, sports stars out and the world would be none the worse at all – like, not at all. Nothing would be affected. Zero. Zilch. It’s like we pay the most money, in a lot of cases, it’s now always true, but in a lot of cases, to the people whose effects, true effects on the world and our lives is the least, I mean, think about that, we pay the most money to the people whose effects on the world, truly profound and meaningful effects on the world, are the least, that blows my mind. That just blows my mind.

06.24

So I’m thinking more about this and realizing there are really two types of jobs. Those that on some light level affect the world and those that affect it immediately and profoundly and forever. I’m of the former. I work in marketing and while it’s important for me and my clients, if everything I’ve ever done was suddenly erased, not a whole lot would change. But if my brother would similarly disappear, all of the work he’s done to help people’s vision would also disappear. The Target CEO, not much. The Target employee who helped me find the very important gift I was looking for, yep. Entertainers, absolutely not. Plumbers, yes.

This isn’t very well thought out, but am I serious about it? Yes, I am.

Lewy Body Dementia

There but for the grace of God go I. Lewy Body Dementia. Look it up if you’re looking for yet another chink in the armor of this loving God of grace. Or if you’re more modern, explain to me why evolution would evolve such a thing. It’s a cocktail, not to be enjoyed surely, but jammed down the throats of the unsuspecting; a mix of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease with a double-shot of hallucinations tossed in for good measure. Shaken. Stirred. Scared. To death.

“Dad, are you all right?”

Eyes of terror, hands shaking, trembling in the middle of the familiar family room.

“No.”

“Can I get you anything?”

“Yeah, a casket.”

It’s one of the sickest parts of the sickness, this in and out of reality, with little of the blissful ignorance that can accompany some forms of dementia. Just confusion, then awareness, then terror, then anger, then anxiety, then awareness, then frustration, then and again and again and again.

The hallucinations started out fascinating, even funny. “Do you see that garden party over on the Johnson’s lawn?”

“No.”

Or

“Do you see the couple standing on the rocks down by the lake?”

“No.”

“Well, then, what about their dog?”

They got less funny over time. Long, complex hallucinations he recounted later. The three women who put him in a car and took him across the country, stopping at gas stations, not letting him out of the back seat. The same three women who would show up unexpectedly in the house. “I don’t know how they get in here.” Then maybe funny: “But damn they work hard around here. Never seen anything like it.”

He’s moving into memory care now and if anyone’s memory needs some care, it’s his. It’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen, this Lewy Body business. Reduce a once proud, hyper-intelligent, orthopedic surgeon, to a trembling, mumbling “resident” (read “patient”).

There are moments of transcendence, fewer and farther between these days, but, still, and occasionally.

I love my dad. I hate this fucking disease.

Vladimir Hitler (okay, that’s over the top)

Kudos to the Russians for the Olympic intro. God bless ‘em, yes, it was an extravaganza, as it always is. Beautiful and poignant and then, ultimately, please make it stop, super bowl halftime style. But I think they made some recognition of their own not so perfect history, which was good. I’m not sure even we juggernaut Americans would have done so. Some recognition of a not so Pollyanna past which they’ve been prone to as Soviets and now new Russians. Something tells me we would have draped a flag over all of our own ugly past. But there’s still the 50 billion dollar price tag (what happened to that?!), which the Chinese would have parlayed into an Olympic games and then maybe Disney Beijing. Putin’s a megalomaniac, no doubt. And this is his moment. But is it enough? I don’t think so.

But let’s watch the games!

Sadly in the end, Putin will do what Putin wants to do. Shit, Hitler had the Olympic games at his peak and look how that turned out, how history sees it, Vladimir.

But let’s just watch the games!

Minnesotans are beside themselves

Minnesotans take a certain pride in winter. Lesser mortals couldn’t survive here and so we go so far as to sing the praises of blizzards and below zero temperatures. It builds character and culls the herd. Population control. Let the weak leave, and leave the strong behind!

So why then is this particular winter bringing out the mad whiners in so many of us? Everyone is pissed! I went outside one morning recently and saw five inches of new snow, with drifts over my driveway and screamed: #$#@#%!!!!! A neighbor a few doors down thankfully didn’t hear the actual message but only the sound of the shout and turned and waved.

I would argue it’s the worst winter in recent memory. Biggest snowfall? No. Coldest temperatures? No. But a constant onslaught of cold and snow and snow and cold. The best of us are bitching like teenagers forced to stay home, eat only broccoli and do advanced placement homework – every freaking day of the year.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it like this. Our proud stoicism has frozen to icy anger. We feel let down as if winter had always been this devil to which we’d sold our souls and agreed that you kick our ass some and we’ll stay by you as long as you keep the hoi polloi at bay. But it seems winter has changed the details of our deal. Winter just keeps on kicking and kicking and kicking, and we’re getting a little ticked off – no, a lot ticked off! And the hoi polloi? I’m constantly pushing them out of the driveways they didn’t think to shovel at all.

I used to see a cross-country skier and think, way to go, man! Now I see them and recognize only the stupidity of their actions. You, my friend, are giving in to the enemy. You cannot enjoy this torture! Go home! Drink bourbon in front of a fire and let us plan together our flight to the land of the weaker mortals. We could rule those fools and that simple land! We will never again scrape thick ice from our cars! Never again spin our tires and slip backward on tiny inclines! Never again will we spend untold hours shoveling and shoveling and shoveling, just so someone can walk down our clear sidewalks!

Instead we will sit upon a beach with our toes in the sand, the salt water washing over our feet. That is what we will do! Together! It will be spectacular!!

That is, after tomorrow, after the plows go by and leave a three foot ice wall between our cars and the icy roads. After we take our plastic shovels and slowly chip away at that wall as our fingers devolve to tiny, dying icicles. Right after that! We all leave! Together!

The Human Condition of Toxicity

This is not a tale of our environment trashed and gone rogue on our poor souls. This is the story of just one woman – a woman who I both despise and pity, a woman who is obviously evil and hurting. So does the latter negate the former? Maybe, in theory, but not in practice. Our actions are our own, no matter what the extenuating circumstances – maybe not in the eyes of the law, but in the practice of the person and the outcomes they beget. For it is not some statute or former case that decides this sort of guilt, but the suffering of the innocent players. A well-paid lawyer can turn his eye to her actions, but no one in her cross-hairs can.

Okay, that’s a rather overblown beginning just to talk about a regular person in the regular world going about her life in a regular job among regular professionals. So what makes her so evil? That is the question – and that is why I am torn about her. I had the opportunity to work with this person for about a year. It began with warnings about her from those who knew her, but I saw none of the serial negativity they described. In fact, it appeared we were on an entirely different track. She seemed to like us and what we did, she even, and this is where I should have seen it coming, acted as if we were in cahoots as she quickly denigrated her colleagues conspiratorially almost immediately when we were alone. I was taken aback as it was entirely unprofessional, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. Mistake, that.

Needless to say, she turned. Her vitriol was soon pointed my way, and you could see that the cahoots was now among others and we were the denigrated and trashed. It’s mostly over, and I certainly don’t judge myself in her eyes, and I’m angry and even shocked that she gets away with what she does, but ultimately I pity her. She’s old. She’s alone. She’s bitter. I can imagine that this is her purpose – so much easier and more powerful to be small, malevolent and angry than to do the work required to make good, make friends and even love. She fills her emptiness with that contempt. She doesn’t deserve that life. Something outside her led her there. No one chooses to be that toxic because there’s never a happy ending. Only endings. And lots of them.

I can’t despise her. I can only feel bad for her. I’m a karma guy. I believe, despite my reality-soaked, scientific enlightenment bent, that somehow she’ll have to pay for these actions, but then again, maybe she already is. We reap what we sow, not in some distant imagined place of suffering, but right here and right now. Bless her.

Fire and Flintstones

I was reading something about the ineffectiveness of various youth programs around the United States and was struck by a thought that rarely enters my mind: oh, t’were it we only had more fire and brimstone! Well-meaning liberals (and some conservatives surely) put their grand efforts into turning troubled and disadvantaged kids around at every corner. And they mostly fail, but that is not for lack of effort. There is such a giant stew of reasons – ranging from rap music to broken homes to lack of jobs to under-funded schools and missing parents – that something like after-school basketball just can’t make much of a difference. The kids spend a couple of hours a week in some well-planned utopia and then the other 165 in reality. And reality sucks for most of those we are trying to help.

But back in the day, see, religion had an iron grip on many kid’s minds. Yes, they were also more likely to be from two-parent homes, the union kept dad working, there was no such thing as thrash metal and Facebook, and watching too much Flintstones was what parents feared most about the effects of the media, but it was the Sunday sermon that often prevented the slide from good boy to juvenile delinquent. The real horror of burning in hell for lifting a pack of bubble gum held some sway back in those days. And while my own opinion is that it was (and is) tall tales long ago concocted by men wanting to control other men, women and children, Jesus man, it worked!

The Reluctant Alpha Dog

Okay, so how did this happen?

First, I never wanted a dog. I was fully aware of how much work dogs are, how much they tie you down, how much exercise they need (that is, if you care enough about them you will make certain they get, which is one of the things that so amazes me about many so-called dog lovers who let their dog sit in the house all day long and then merely open the back door when they get home so doggy-do-nothing can amble about in the 300 square feet of outside space available to them – rant complete), I was especially fully cognizant of how much they poop, and also how much the annoying little bark machines can cost you in food, dog accouterments and vet fees. So how did this happen?

It may not come as a surprise, but I don’t even really like dogs and those same dog people are always quick to say, “That’s because you never had a dog growing up!”, as if not having a dog growing up is like not having ever ascended Mount Everest growing up. I had plenty of access to dogs because pretty much everyone else had a dog and quite honestly even that was too much dog for me.

So one night, admittedly, after a few beers – and years and years and years of friends, family, and every other dog person who felt the right, telling me that I had to have a dog and that my kids needed to grow up with a dog (lest they end up a dog-hater like me – touché) – I simply caved. I walked into the living room where the kids were watching tv and my eight-year-old daughter asked again, as she had a hundred thousand times before, “When can we get a dog?”

I remember the moment. It’s visually kind of gauzy now, like one of those wax paper photo effects of yore, and I felt my strength not only ebb but drop out of me like I’d eaten a pound of resolve laxative. I paused for a split second and then said it, “We can get a dog.”

All faces turned to me, stunned, which would have been truly comic had it not simply reinforced what I suddenly realized had come out of my mouth.

I was screwed.

I followed up with something about how it had to be a rescue dog, as I’m particularly annoyed by those who concern themselves with holding one bucket of dog genes above another. You know the Nazis did that.

And, yes, I know, suddenly I was the great champion of dogs, but I do have to make that distinction: you can heartily dislike dogs as an aggregate, and yet also not want any one of them to suffer. I don’t have any particular affinity for deer but you’ll never find me hiding in a tree (dressed like a tree) punching a hole through one’s neck with a high-powered rifle. There are plenty of people we dislike passionately, but we’d still pity them their terminal cancer diagnosis, right?

My wife was on the Google and in minutes and had all sorts of printed pictures of future dogs that they all pored over screeching, “Oh, look at that one!” “Ooh, daddy, I want this one!” “I love Scout!” “Can we get Molly?”

Note that I married into a family of serious dog people. There are more dogs than people, I think. These people would shoot one another rather than withhold a biscuit for Spunky. Family get-togethers are like trips to the humane society. Imagine the stress I was under.

Fast forward to today and we have a half black lab/half Australian shepherd (we think) female dog animal named Bindi (came with that, by the way) and here’s the mystery: I’m her alpha dog. She follows me everywhere – up the stairs, down the stairs, into this room and out of that one – into the bathroom for the love of god. She lies at my feet at any opportunity. She stares at me.

The entire family can be yelling “No, Bindi! Drop that, Bindi!” and she’ll just stand there looking up at them, and then I can walk in the room and say, “Drop it.” And the ravaged shoe is on the ground.

But why me? Does she know about my past? Is she affording me this deference because I never wanted her in the first place? Is she trying to break me as they did, but this time not from non-dog-owner to dog-owner, but from dog owner to dog lover?

Restaurants consider themselves either “kid-friendly” or “kid-tolerant”. I am dog tolerant. I am a dog tolerant alpha dog.

Yes, there are fleeting moments where I look over at her and she’s staring up at me, cocks her head every so slightly, and raises an eyebrow and, yes, it’s kind of cute. But, really, did I trade my freedom (she can’t be alone for more than about 6 hours), my money (we talked about that), and my dignity (I pick up her poop, she does not pick up mine), for kind of cute?

Apparently so. And she does sit when I tell her to sit.

I'm only smiling because she's not pooping... right now.
I’m only smiling because she’s not pooping… at least, not right now.

The Blue Light Flickers

Each night I wander
through streets mostly empty
and speak to the lights
at the tops of the poles
radiant and still
measured and steadfast
the voices that passed
reach to my present

How real is that nexus
trustworthy the voices?
Am I just a mad man
who’s made the wrong choices?
Who walks in the night
A ventriloquist of wishes
conjuring dead folk?
Highly suspicious!

Terrorized.
Superstitious.
I walk on.
I watch out.

And in every house
the blue light flickers
casting erratic shadows
broadcasting
transmissions
and jittery realities
belying the stillness
the stilted stiffness
of interest coupled with indifference.

To the history of the dead folk
Hubbard’s among them
first to connect us to
the sound and the vision
Like splitting the atom
breaking the silence
smashing the walls
Severing space.

A fine hocus pocus –
And all the world turned
and focused.

But they’re lonely, the dead folk
The ones that you know
They wish you would listen
Pay a little attention
They know that you’re busy, but, really?
You speak to your gods, you stare at your screens
but find not a moment to say what you mean
to the ones who know you
the ones who know now

if you listen, they will speak
if you speak, they will listen
take time. be quiet. talk. wait.
repeat.

And the other dead folk – the pioneers!
they broadcast the future
to eyes and to ears
like sneaky disease
slips in through the breathing
bypassing the mind
dissecting the meaning.
Red, Green and Blue
is plenty for you
native man
lotus eater.

And in every house the blue light flickers.

The sky is eclipsed
by a star machine
manufacturing gods, heroes and
heroines, heroin, mescaline,
vicodin, maryjane,
alcohol, cocaine,
fame,
ecstasy, baby,
you’ll be king!
A queen.
A pawn.

An old man stifles a yawn.

Beneath my feet the sidewalk retreats
the oncoming traffic of life in the seats
and the chairs and the sofas
the idle, bystanders,
loungers and loafers
(bumps on a log
lumps in a bog)
extinguishing stories
personal glories
and staring.

A fine hocus pocus –
And the world turned
and focused.

But the others, the headmost,
ahead of the curve
who colonized the minds
of the hoi polloi,
they were as surprised as you and I.
This technochimera
spearheading and primitive
could (high)jack right into
primordial you and I
inventing the gaping maw
and glassy eye.

And each night I wander
through streets mostly empty
surrounded by dead friends
and family just waiting
for us to discern
them from the gods,
the gods from them,
one is unknowable
one is at hand.

Meanwhile…

A man suddenly stands,
stretches and leaves the room

a woman leans back
and lifts her arm

a guy rubs his eye
and contorts his face

and I see in these moments
what they’ll never see
scenes in the movie
starring the man who stands,
the leaning lady and rubbing guy.

Watching and walking
I’m on to the next.

Please don’t shut your curtains
Please don’t look my way.

Hagiography

I can’t say how much I love how Edward St. Aubyn skewers the holy, high and mighty, landed, nam-ed, people of his Patrick Melrose novels. But I also feel a similar anger toward his own prodigious talent. Like, well, fuck you, Eddie, with all you got through whatever genetic re-redistribution that led to your own genius! You are the heir to whatever it is you do. You skewer them with the same unabashed cruelty and poetry that they do others. Yes, you are infinitely better and more able, while they skewer, you fillet. And I Iove you for it. But I hate you, too. That cruelty doesn’t come from nowhere.

And that’s the point, I guess. I love you again.