Monthly Archives: November 2012

Angstgiving

I had really been looking forward to Turkey Day this year.  It was sad on the one hand because the Mrs. and I would be spending it without the kids and grand kids for the first time.  They are all scattered around the globe doing their thing and Christmas is the earliest any of us will be together again as any kind of a family.  But, on the other hand, what I was looking forward to was the company of friends, who had invited us to spend the day with them up their mile long driveway in what we call a “cove”, up in The Blue Ridge.  A special guest was going to be there and I couldn’t wait to meet him.

It didn’t go at all as we expected.

The special guest was the father of my friend.   Now, well into his 80’s, he had been a “Borscht Belt” comedian in the heydays of the old “Jewish Alps”  He had appeared in theaters, resorts, famous, (and sometimes not so famous) night clubs, and on television.  He was on Johnny Carson’s “TONIGHT SHOW” numerous times, plus “THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW”, MERV GRIFFIN, and even had a weekly show of his own on very early TV.

 “This morning the doorbell rang. I said ‘Who is it?’ He said ‘It’s the Boston strangler.’ I said ‘It’s for you dear!'” 

I sat next to this gentleman with more stories and jokes in his head than I could even imagine and something truly horrible and absolutely human happened.  As we passed around a plate of stuffed mushrooms and sipped our wine he began to tell a story.   It all began beautifully until, like a scratched record, his mind jumped the groove and went back to what he had already told.  Again and again this happened.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know that he was old and his mind wasn’t as sharp as it once was, but, around the table last night it became obvious to his family and their guests that it wasn’t nearly as sharp as it was last week, or, even yesterday.  When his son picked him up at the assisted living center that morning they had mentioned that he had been having a rough week, but, nothing prepared anyone for this.  As the evening progressed it became obvious to us all that this once articulate and truly funny, funny man didn’t even know where he was.  Dementia was progressing at a gallop and all anybody could do now was wait for it all to end.

It was Thanksgiving and the stories of what it was like to hang out with “The Three Stooges” were gone for ever.  We wouldn’t hear how much fun it was to go out chasing women with Rodney Dangerfield, or, what Mel Brooks and  Carl Reiner and Jonathan Winters were like before they hit the big time.  It was all gone.  His eyes appeared to be as empty as the rooms of the famous resorts that once dotted Sullivan County, New York.  The Concord, Grossinger’s, Tamarack Lodge, The Nevele, Browns, Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club…..  All gone today.  All history.

We were very quiet on the drive home.  I got to thinking about the Thanksgiving “thing”.  The whole long list of “things” we are all to be so thankful for suddenly seemed so absurd to me, so temporary, so transient.  We sit down at our respective tables and give thanks to who?  Somebody remind me again.  Am I supposed to thank fate, or, some God that my mind isn’t yet coming apart at the seams, or, that it is someone else and not me who is starving, or, has cancer?  To who, or what, do I address my thanks that I wasn’t born in a place where there is no food to eat.  While I’m busy doing that and passing the stuffing how do I forget the simultaneous horror and pain that accompany good fortune as closely as heads does tails on a dime?  How do I forget that time makes losers of us all and that one day the short straw will belong to all of us?  Is that what all the booze is for and if so, how the hell do any of us ever get home?

I remembered an old saying that my grandmother used to come out with…. “Better to die 10 years too early than 10 minutes too late.”  … And I understood it like I never did before.

“I told my doctor, ‘This morning when I got up and saw myself in the mirror, I looked awful! What’s wrong with me?’ He replied, ‘I don’t know, but your eyesight is perfect!”

I had a hard time getting to sleep last night.  Turkey usually doesn’t work like that.  Turkey usually knocks you out cold after a big Thanksgiving meal.  I just lay in bed looking up at the ceiling thinking about the absurdity of this life of ours and I remembered that guy who ate a dozen oysters on the night of his honeymoon because he had heard that they were aphrodisiacs and how terribly disappointed he was the next morning when only three of them worked.

 

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GOD gave this bomb to me!

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else or a community or a pressure group, you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.  [Eleanor Roosevelt]

So, I’m reading the paper and Israel is bombing the living shit out of the Palestinians again.  The New York TIMES said it was Israel’s intention to bomb the Palestinians “Back to the Stone Age”.   I read last night, before I slipped into the land of Nod, that 50,000 years ago Neanderthals lived in the Golan Heights.  It is thought that they had been there for 50,000 years previous.  Not too long after 40,000 years ago our ancestors, Homo sapiens, put the Kay-Bosh on the Neanderthals in the area we call Israel today.  It was genocide in the real Stone Age.  Our genetic ancestors didn’t have missiles, helicopters and atomic weapons.  They just had better stone tools and, perhaps, a more cunning brain when it came to killing.  No one knows what line of bullshit the Homo sapiens fed themselves, or, the Neanderthals with regard to why they figured they should own the land.  There is serious doubt as to whether either group practiced circumcision.  No records exist as to who told the best jokes, or, made the best stand-up comedians.  Not like today.

I find the fact that Israel has atomic weapons deeply unsettling.  I find the fact that Americans think some farcical God gave the deed to the land we now call Israel to Jewish people very disturbing.  I have many reasons for this.  The biggest reason is that it is absurd to think a supernatural, mythical being who lives in the sky, is in charge of real estate ownership simply because some group of people claim that is the case.  Americans where I live are positive God gave the Holy Land to the Jews, temporarily, and my fundamentalist christian neighbors are all just chomping at the bit for atomic war to break out thereabouts.  They have it on good authority that the moment the air clears Jesus will show up and punish everybody who didn’t agree with them.  Boy will they be sorry then!  HE will punish the Jews too because… well… they are Jews, after all.  Only the right kind of christians come out on top in this story.

Did I leave out the part where a person has to be fucking nuts to believe a word of this crap?

I was thinking about all this craziness while I was outside working in the garden this morning and it occurred to me that this is precisely where Mitt Romney and his Mormon friends missed the boat.  What “Old Magic Underpants” Mitt SHOULD have done during the Republican debates was announce to everyone that the Mormon Church had 25 thermonuclear devices and the means to deliver them anyplace in the world at a moments notice.  He should have proudly announced that Mormons had been notified long ago that GOD gave the whole fucking world and everything in it to them.  I mean, why not?  It worked for the Jews and since we all know that if you are going to tell a lie and expect people to buy it you had best tell the biggest whopper you can make up.  Hitler knew that.  Obviously, going by the last election, Mitt and the Republican AND Democratic party knows that.

So, he could have faked it all.  A few photoshopped pictures of Mormon submarines and missile silos deep beneath the Temple in Salt Lake City, home of the world famous Mormon Pumpernickel Choir.  Piece of cake!  I’m thinking faced with that caliber of bullshit even Obama would have found himself out of his depth.

The operative word here once again is Bullshit.  Here is how it works when it comes to stupid wars that fat cat white people make enormous profits off of.  There is this unwritten law you see.  It goes like this.  Every generation is cunningly tricked into thinking it is wise and honorable to surrender their bodies and minds to “The Government” and serve in “The Military”.  Now, no matter how stupid, fucked up and ridiculous the misadventures “The Government” send the members of “The Military” on and no matter how badly it comes out with regard to death, dismemberment and slaughter of the innocents EVERYBODY promises to pretend that it was a good idea to go.  (read that again)  At NO time is it permissible to reflect on how abysmally stupid it is to sign away your rights to a government that lies like a fucking rug.  At EVERY opportunity, the generation that was fooled into jumping feet first into the meat grinder last go-round, MUST try to convince the next generation that doing the same thing is a GREAT and Noble Idea.   Suggesting that this kind of activity, tricking the young into doing the same stupid shit you were tricked into doing is, perhaps, not the smartest,or, noblest thing to be doing is frowned upon.  Telling the truth in situations involving war and military service spoils all the fun.

John McCain was in the news a lot this week.  He became a Big Shot politician because people were confused into thinking he was a hero.  People felt sorry for him because he was stuck in a prison in North Vietnam for years.  They voted for him because they thought he was a hero.  I never thought he was a hero.  I always thought that dropping giant bombs on women and children who had never done a damn thing to hurt America or Americans was a pretty rotten thing to do.  Doing it from thousands and thousands of feet in the sky always seemed amazingly cowardly to me even though there was a chance you could be shot down.  John McCain was unlucky one day and he was shot down.  I can honestly say that the North Vietnamese treated John McCain MUCH better than I would have if he was trying to blow my mother, wife or children to little tiny bits.  If he survived the crash and I found him I think I would have killed him on sight.  I really don’t think I could have stopped myself.  What kind of a prick kills helpless women and children?

At the time John McCain and the rest of my generation, who surrendered their bodies to the Military to do the bidding of the stockholders of Dow Chemical, General Dynamics and the other profit minded purveyors of war and mayhem, were killing millions of Vietnamese and agent orange-ing everything in sight our politicians and generals were telling us that the only way out of this mess was to…… wait for it…..  “Bomb the North Vietnamese BACK to the Stone Age”.

So, there you have it.  Because one generation can’t admit to themselves that they were fooled into killing people based on  outrageous lies and made up bullshit stories …. it goes on and on.  Because one generation refuses to face the fact that veterans are routinely forgotten, mistreated and pushed out of the way… more warm bodies to fuel the war machine are guaranteed.  Because, rather than admit that the Vietnam War was a boondoggle where millions were killed for no good reason, other than corporate profits, and tens of thousands of Americans in uniform were broken in mind and body many of  the survivors, to this very day, continue to fool themselves into thinking it all had something to do with honor.

They stand mute as child like boys and girls are persuaded to abdicate their autonomy and be fitted for uniforms.  They close their eyes and ears to the truth of what new horror their tax dollars are purchasing now.  They repeat the same lies that were told to them and it’s “Back to the Stone Age” one more time for the next group of poor bastards lacking the skills and tools necessary to defend their real estate.

I’ll tell you, if we don’t smarten-up and start admitting the truth about all this nonsense real soon it will be “Back to the Stone Age” for us all.

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” [Mahatma Gandhi]

It is important to be careful what you believe and what that makes you believe in.

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How much more do they think I can take?

I really, REALLY, wacked my head hard last night.  Like an idiot I stood up under an open kitchen cabinet door so hard that it took a ginder out of the top of my head.  I was wearing a hat at the time and the point of the door still ripped the skin and dented my cranium enough that it was still bleeding 10 hours later.  I have a sick kind of headache.  I saw stars.

That was the icing on the cake.  The last straw.  It was only tuesday night and already my embarrassment at being an American was overwhelming.  As the saying goes…. I needed this like a hole in the head.

The election was finally over and I expected some peace.  No more phone calls, political commercials and election coverage.  No more listening to rednecks tell me Obama was going to take “our” guns away and make us all Muslims.   I even felt I, all of us really, deserved some peace.  But it wasn’t to be.

Now I have to listen to how the “Best” and the “Brightest” America has to offer when it comes to military excellence turn out to be no better and certainly no brighter than the dumbest sons-of-bitches I have known all my adult life.  I read this in The New York TIMES about the 37 year old floozie from Tampa who started it all.

…”Their parties, though, were the talk of the town. In February 2010, a gossip column in The Tampa Bay Times reported that Mr. Petraeus and his wife arrived escorted by 28 police officers on motorcycles to a pirate-themed party at the Kelleys’ home, to mark Tampa’s Gasparilla Pirate Fest, an annual event. Guests dined on lamb chops and crab cakes, beside hot dog and funnel cake carts, the paper said.”…

I go on to read….”MacDill Air Force Base is a driving force behind the Tampa economy. The local Chamber of Commerce estimates $6.7 billion a year flows into the Tampa Bay area from the base. Military contractors and other defense-related companies dot the city. Business deals are often made in the plentiful strip clubs and steakhouses.”

Is it any wonder America is in the crapper and sinking fast?  Is it still a mystery as to how we ended up bankrupt?  Can there be anybody still out there who can’t figure out how we can start wars, but, never fucking finish them without creating situations where a few hundred million MORE people don’t end up hating our guts?

So, let me lay it out.  I DON’T SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!  I would have to be fucking nuts to support people who blow up little children and torture people and who are lead by knuckleheads like …”Our best and our Brightest”.  I would have to be crazy to support such abject failure and, while I’m on the subject…. Everybody who gets issued a uniform ain’t a fucking hero!

I closed the office monday night and headed home.  I stopped on the way to pick up some milk for my morning coffee.  The couple checking out in front of me were complaining to the check-out lady that their son, who is a senior in High School doesn’t know how to write his name in cursive.  (He is going on 18 and he can’t write his fucking name!)  It reminded me of an article I read over the weekend about a committee that has been formed to deal with the fact that so many school districts have stopped teaching cursive writing that banks are worried that, in the future, no one will know how to sign checks and the banks themselves won’t be able to tell a good check from a bad one.

My head is ringing like a bell.

How much more……………

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Sky Burial

I spent all day yesterday alone in the garden.  Finally a killing frost has come in the night and erased all the color from my zinnias and laid low what was left of the tender bits of the summer of 2012.  It’s time to deal with the dead.  It’s time to cut and rake and prepare the stage for the next show.  Time to say goodbye.

My hands are cut and scraped.  My muscles feel old this morning and there is a broken blister where the handle of my garden scissors rips away the skin over the joint where the proximal joins the intermediate phalanges of the ring finger of my right hand.  It happens every fall.  I suppose it could be prevented by gloves, but, they make my hands feel clumsy and rob me of sensitivity and the ability to do the delicate extraction of undesirable vegetation.  I put on my rawhide gloves once all the cutting is done for the raking, scraping and lifting of the dead into containers.  My mulch pile is enormous.  I have two in fact.  I will dig into them come spring and mine them for fine soil.  I will sift new dirt and stand amazed at what 4 or 5 years of decomposition has produced.  You could almost eat it with a spoon.  Magnolia leaves can take up to 10 years, but, I digress.

I’ll start again this morning and put in another 6 hours or so.  It’s above freezing, so, the minute the sun breaks the horizon it will find me already active.  Sunlight, close to the horizontal, does something inside the head of people who love gardens and the way the same color can look so different at different times.

Not that I ever need much prompting, but, fall clean-up always makes me think about death.  The old is making way for the new and there are bodies to be disposed of everywhere.  You can smell the rot if you take the time to sniff.  It’s been one long Sky Burial since life began on Earth and in this universe.  One long churning of the soup.  The living become the dead and the dead nourish the living.  Killing to live and living to kill.  I will sit today in the garden and move from place to place cutting and cleaning the dead perennial stalks, stems and leaves back to the ground.  I will rake them up along with the spent flower heads and disperse seeds without even trying that will become the individual dabs of color in next years masterpiece, when the warm rains come again.

I’m like the vultures in the photograph above.  I’m moving the dead stuff around and turning it into new stuff that doesn’t even remind you of dead stuff anymore.  I’m cooking soup and I am an ingredient in the soup, as are we all.

At one point yesterday while sitting in the garden clipping the dead I remember thinking about cannibalism.  Somewhere between 35 and 45 million people starved to death in China as a result of Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”.  Peasants in the country ate the dead when collectivized farming and miserable planning lead to decreased food production.  They must have been really hungry.

If you read Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” you will note that just about every great civilization that bites the dust ends up with a population forced to bite each other when the cupboard is empty.

I understand that Polynesian cannibals used to refer to human meat as “long pig”.  I remember reading someplace that the reason pork is considered unclean in many cultures is that it tastes indistinguishable from people meat.  People don’t seem to like the idea that they could be eating people meat unless they themselves decide they REALLY have to do it.   I wonder if comedians taste funny?

I guess my point is that you really get to experience the tides and the flow of life more intensely the closer you get to the dirt.  The farther we remove ourselves from that soil level interface, between the ending and the becoming, the less human we begin to feel I think.  The connection is broken and we fail to see our place in it all.  We become and see each other as simply one of the things in a sea of unrelated things.  We can’t see it all as clearly anymore.  That causes us to make mistakes and get bad ideas in our heads.  What the fuck am I talking about?  I just love sitting in the dirt mucking about with plants, letting my mind go where it must, or, it can… in keeping with the situation.

Did you ever eat a tongue sandwich?  You know, like from Katz’s Deli?   Katz

The idea of tasting something that could have tasted you back is a curious one.  The sun is coming up, so, I will go sit in the dirt, in the garden, and think about it like I was a crouton floating on the soup.  I know I’ll end up where the soup ends up, but, for a little while I’ll float above it all and enjoy the view for all it is worth if you don’t mind.

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IN but not OF

This is the very last I hope to be writing about politics for a long time.  The election is over and after months and months of being bombarded with lies and hate and bullshit from every direction I’m tired.  It was a hard time to deal with, I’m sure, for us all, but, I can only try to explain how it was for me in my little corner of America.

I titled this little essay “IN but not OF” because that is exactly how it feels to me to be living in a place that is “in” America, but, not a place that is at all very much “of” America any more.   I live in Central Virginia on the East flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains between Lynchburg and Charlottesville.  I am closer to Lynchburg than I am to Charlottesville and that makes all the difference.  The two cities are separated by about 70 miles of drop-dead gorgeous scenery and more American history than you can shake a stick at.  At the Charlottesville end we have The University of Virginia (Mr. Jefferson’s School), Monticello, the homes of James Madison and James Monroe, Lewis & Clark and, heading south toward Lynchburg, the Rockfish River and the home of “The Walton Family” (Goodnight John-boy).  For a while there Charlottesville was home to more billionaires than any other city in America, but, lately we have acquired a lot more billionaires and now nobody really knows for sure.

At the other end of the road we have Lynchburg.  If one city can be the opposite of another Lynchburg is the opposite of Charlottesville.   Billionaires don’t live in Lynchburg.  When Civil Rights Laws dictated that black people should have the right to swim in the Lynchburg Public Pools the decent, God fearing, people of Lynchburg decided to fill them all in with dirt.  When those same laws dictated that black children had the right to a public education along side white children a young preacher named Jerry Falwell opened up “Christian Academies” for white children only.  Today that little experiment in profiting from fear and discrimination has grown to be “Liberty University”, the largest Evangelical University on the planet.  Gay people are not permitted to attend.  Democrats are not permitted to organize on campus.  Being caught alone with a member of the opposite sex is something that can get you expelled.  Carrying a loaded  gun to class is permitted, but dancing is not.  Lots of famous rich people live in Charlottesville and on more than one occasion in the past ten years it has been named to the list of Best Places to live in America.  Lynchburg has never been on that list and the only rich people in Lynchburg have the last name of Falwell.  It seems that with the untaxed income the Falwell Cartel, I mean Family, has amassed over the years they have reached the point where they own just about everything in Lynchburg.  The earth itself is believed to be between 6 and 10 thousand years old in Lynchburg.  In Charlottesville it is over 4 billion years old.  Lynchburg voted overwhelmingly Republican yesterday and C-ville, that’s what we locals call Charlottesville, voted Democratic.

Lynchburg Virginia is In America, but, it can no longer be said that it is at all representative Of America.  It is a town on its last legs destined to become a living museum of what went wrong with the Republican Party.  Black people are still niggers and gay people are still abominations who have neglected to pray themselves straight and “chosen” to be gay in Lynchburg.  Planned Parenthood was picketed and driven out of town years ago, long before that kind of thing caught on in other culturally backward towns across our great nation.

Charlottesville has a Whole Foods, Trader Jacks, new Wegman’s on the way and every kind of International and ethnic product and produce you ever heard of.  Lynchburg is a food desert.  Last week it was announced that even the local SEARS is closing and the building was purchased by… you guessed it, “Liberty University” to be a civic center for Christian activities.

Now, some people might be wondering why I would want to live anywhere near Lynchburg Virginia.  Why I would want to expose myself to so much hate and down right primitive behavior.  So I will tell you.  Besides the beautiful countryside, absurdly low taxes and fantastic weather there is the opportunity to study a foreign culture, a dying foreign culture, without having to get even one inoculation.

I spoke to a senior in High School this morning.  She told me that the Senior Class voted in a mock election yesterday and President Obama won overwhelmingly.  While Mom and Dad were voting for Old “Magic Underpants” Mitt the younger generation were all for gay marriage, birth control and equal pay for equal work.

Did I mention something about a dying culture?

 

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