Gay on Paper: A Mer-Manifesto

In 1997 Kevin Kline starred in a film called In & Out. The story is of a heterosexual acting teacher about to marry his sweetheart. When one of his former students wins an Academy Award, his televised acceptance speech drops the well-meaning bomb that Kline’s character is gay. In 1997 this revelation could hush a movie theater and provide an actor of Kline’s comedic talents much opportunity for goggle-eyed scenery-chewing. Not only is Kline’s character emphatically not gay, the televised “mis-outing” comes on the eve of his wedding day to a longtime sweetheart.

His student’s announcement on the most watched television broadcast on Earth comes as a complete surprise to Kline, who initially doth protest too much. Way too much. But slowly he begins to realize his personal tastes, habits, and demeanor are in lock-step with accepted cultural markers for homosexuality. Kline loves Streisand, adores poetry, uses a napkin when he eats, and knows what a split infinitive is. Oh, and he’s driven absolutely mad by having his shirt half-untucked. And so on.

What ensues is a film that wittily but ruinously reinforces what it is to be a straight man, and what exactly it is to be a gay man. When I saw the poster I believed I understood the synopsis—but I’d overestimated both the director, Frank Oz (familiar to Mankind as the voices of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster and Miss Piggy, and of Yoda—Dagobah’s diminutive Jedi blabbermouth), and celebrated gay playwright and screenwriter Paul Rudnick. The self-consciously daring film notably featured a 12 second kiss between raging hetero poster-man Tom Selleck and Kline. Which was just about the only ground broken in this 1997 attempt to tweak retrograde thinking about sexual identity.

Could it be Magic

In the film’s penultimate revelation, Kline’s panicked osterone is tested by a self-help audio course whose voiceover acts as guide and comic foil to Kline’s supposed epiphany. “Truly manly men do not dance” the voiceover assures. When Gloria Gaynor’s disco anthem “I Will Survive” starts blaring, of course Kline struggles mightily, but finally can’t override his gay gene and—like Superman succumbing to Kryptonite—begins dancing like a dervish. “Stop shaking that booty!” the announcer commands. “Be a man! Kick someone! Punch someone!”

As social history goes, the film is notable for casting in cheap concrete our collective late-90s wisdom concerning the bright line between gays and straights. Kicking and Punching = Heterosexual Man (today you can add Assaulting). My delusional hope when the film began was that the producers were breaking ground, would end the film with Kline’s revelation—and our own—that many straights also have a fervent love for Streisand (to use a little shorthand here), tear up copiously and often, and laugh uproariously with hands clasped and head thrown back.

In fact, heterosexual men have been known to swoon in romantic settings, sob quietly at “chick flicks”, gyrate to Donna Summer (her version of Manilow’s “Could it Be Magic” – are you freaking kidding?!) and otherwise confuse the gender brand. Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Testosterone, I shall Pause and Gather Wildflowers with Both Arms. I’m talking of course about today’s Mer-Man. And this is only loosely to do with Ethel.

Here Comes Your Man

Am I manly? Oh hell yeah! But not so’s you’d notice. I have hair all over my back, but it is the hair that has fallen screaming from the top of my head. I am not a Sean Connery type who needs to shave his neck every day just to look civil. When I say I shave religiously, I mean once at Easter and once at Christmas.

On the Man side of the ledger, I have a gorgeous sweetheart of a foreign-born wife with whom I have sired two wonderful children. Yes, when in the throes of that procreative ecstasy I probably sounded a lot like Carol Channing being mugged. My vocal register tends toward the girlish, it’s true. When I’m excited or perturbed, I would not sound out of place sternly instructing Dorothy to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”. If I had a dollar for every time a phone solicitor responded to my greeting with “Hello Mrs. Wing!” I could buy and sell you all.

What’s more, I write poetry, am indeed drawn to chick flicks, get a tracheal sob-cramp at every single hearing of Eydie Gorme’s viscera-wrenching version of “If He Walked Into My Life” from Jerry Herman’s musical “Mame”, regard beer as ghastly pre-incarnate urine, am completely mystified by the idea of professional sports, and get fluttery in the presence of Gene Kelly’s happy-faced acrobatic whimsy. On paper I am a gay man. At least as our easy-money pop culture would have it.

Rain-Soaked in Rangoon

But if being gay or straight is technically, if not altogether culturally, decided by sexual preference, I’m as straight as the beeline I made to see a shapely and rain-soaked Patricia Arquette in the otherwise sobering film “Beyond Rangoon”. To this day, the words “Burma” and “Myanmar” inspire in me a feverish excitement that has little to do with my wanting to find the place on a map or delve into its tormented history – and present tense. Those geo-political factoids are best presented by a soaked Patricia Arquette, as director John Boorman no doubt knew.

My unique strain of heterosexual manhood is a golden thread that can be traced back through the misty eons and predates a fully upright gait. My ancient Pliocene ancestor is the hunched, attention-deficient cave dweller who, while out with the tribe’s Hunter-Gatherers simply had to pause to marvel at the wondrous delicacy of the giant leafy Cyathea, and was noisily ingested by a saber-toothed poetry hater.

Chauvinist Straight Guy Warning

Today it’s politically fashionable to pretend that gay men and straight men share an equal footing, but in my view they do not. Possibly these next remarks will draw accusations of “sexism”, but my experience is this, and has been for a long time; wherever you have a gathering of people, the gay guy is typically the warmest, funniest, most easily gregarious, best-looking, and most interestingly dressed man in the room. This may be more straight chauvinism reinforced by a pop culture that anymore posits the gay man as a masterfully scripted wit and bon vivant, but it does seem to me an inescapable truth. Why should this so often be the case? Because (and pardon my ignorance, if that’s what this is) a gay man, like a laudably feminized man, has more of the stuff in him that makes the world go round. Namely: Woman.

To put it plainly, women (very generally speaking) are, in my personal view, more interesting, complex, and full-blooded than their penile counterparts—and the more feminine dynamism a man possesses the better. I’m not talking about presentation. I’m talking about the female geist. A woman is more creative, more emotionally intelligent, more expressive, more rational, more deliberative, more empathetic, and more acutely aware of the so-called “30,000 foot view” than a man. In my considered opinion. Anthropology explains this. “You go out and get food and I’ll hang out back here and make our Lives.”

Empathy. Broadsword. Mer-Man

I (think I) know there is an agitating cohort of women for whom association with the above-mentioned attributes is infuriating, and even considered toxic to the very real and deservedly pissed-off struggle in which women remain engaged today. I think some women consider winning at “empathy” and “creativity” a net loss, at least while men are being elevated as being analytically acute, physically unstoppable, courageous, and better at hefting the all-important broadsword. I get it. “Empathy” isn’t going to get women their absurdly long-awaited equal pay for equal work, nor the systemic respect of our self-stroking man-culture.

But “feminized” men, and females themselves, will ultimately save our bacon. Artists, writers, cinephiles, musicians; all ordinary enlightened empaths and payers-of-attention to quotidian treasure—give me as many of those as you can find. They’re slowly moving the needle.

In Ben Stiller’s screamingly funny male-model sendup, his title character Derek Zoolander—a globally famous, vain, straight, and adorably empty-headed nitwit/care bear—“goes home again” and tries to work with his dad in the family coal mine. Zoolander of course develops an effete little cough after a single day in the mines (“..I think I have the black lung, Pop…”).

After work, a lavishly produced moisturizer ad appears on the big screen t.v. in the company bar, Derek Zoolander swimming sinuously with an Esther Williams fish tail and murmuring: “…moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty…”. The gathered mine workers laugh derisively. Zoolander’s father is likewise disgusted. “I just thank the lord your mother didn’t live to see her son as a mermaid!” Zoolander corrects him. “Mer MAN!” *cough* — *cough* “Mer MAN!”

May they save us all.

###

 

The Miracle of the Water

These questions haunt our age: Why do men with bushy Friedrich Nietzsche moustaches torment us by eating eat ice cream cones? By what strange devolution of studio engineering did the cracking snare sound of 1967’s Penny Lane sink to the mid-seventies signature snare sound – a hand puppet hitting a shoe box? Oh, and how do I stop drinking?

Drinking…drinking. Ah yes! Now I remember. It is, simply put, marvelous. Why on Earth would you want to stop?! It’s practically free, perfectly legal, and an always available, authentically ecstatic experience that puts you immediately in mind of a truth-seeing little magus in a velveteen cape. He is sunk comfortably back into the plush velour of your frontal lobe, lazily scissoring his crossed legs, and by your second drink he is laughingly, and with tiny magus-like ge­­­stures, parting every curtain you’ve ever hoped to see through. It’s all right there, right in front of you; a glorious dopamine countryside whose untended gardens beckon like a mother.

Ice Cream and Nietzsche
no ice cream cone für Fred

And what a feeling it is. What a feeling! You drop the little charge of amber fluid down the inner velvet of the neck and it strikes the tummy like a gushing Peter Max explosion of warmth that is lovelier by half than any other sensation you shall ever thenceforth know. Within a handful of seconds you are seeing, unmistakably, the Next New World. John Cheever, my personal deity and a famous fallen lush (for a time) both decried and helplessly praised “… the euphoria of alcohol when I seem to walk among the stars.” I do believe that about sums it up.

Glass half empty: the predilection for alcohol is classified as a disease. Because what but an abnormal and skewed constitution can possibly explain the desire to feel really freaking fantastic all the time? “I would love to feel really freaking fantastic all the time!” “Yes, well, that is the nature of your disease.”

Really? At this writing (and according to a talking head who briefly held the floor on my car radio this afternoon, if you know what I mean), recent discoveries based on some over-excited twiddling of the human genome seem to indicate that alcoholism is about 50% genetic and about 50% willful. Yeah. Uh, thanks, science. You laboriously teased apart the double helix and that’s the best you could come up with? Hope your beakers and stuff didn’t cost too much.

I’m no scientist (to say the very very least) and a yen for hooch may well be partly genetic, but this “disease” classification of boozing seems to me a little overweening, having sprung, at least in its initial rollout, from our collective altruistic impulse to let the alkies off the hook. “We gotta let these boozers off the hook! How do we release them from this prison of shame? Can we just say they caught a disease or something? A drinking disease! Yeah, that’s it! How else to humanely explain this embarrassing desire of theirs to feel freaking fantastic ALL THE TIME?” No, dear ones. Wanting to feel really really good all the time is not a sign of illness. Quite the opposite.

eddie-and-jeffy-in-throes-of-happy

I dabbled in fire water once upon a time; never quite got the hang of it, though. I started late, for one thing. While my more sensible acne-bedeviled compatriots were skulking around the high school parking lot on game night, gulping from bottle-shaped paper bags, laughing like morons and finally attacking each other in zipper-festooned bellbottoms (this may date me), I was going to Young Life meetings and Bible studies and listening to earnest Believers with diaphanous teen-beards strum guitars and sing about the beautiful baby Jesus. I treasure that time and would not trade it for anything. Those days formed the best parts of me – but it cost me dear. I lost my place on the Practiced Drinking continuum. I never quite caught up. In those days I wore a delicate little gold cross around my pencil neck and walked around in tiny 70s short-shorts I would today severely punish my daughter for even glancing at on the sales rack at Marshall’s. In my Christian finery and Caucasian ‘fro and three-striped knee socks, I was scarier and more off-putting to little children and the general population than the most ravaged vodka fiend. Which is all to say, at a time I should have been practicing my drinking with the fellas, I was diverted by other pursuits.

My high school peer group were not ‘partiers’. While our desperately healthy counterparts were doing the inebriated hokey pokey in the back seats of innumerable cars, we were spending long evenings in the balmy lamplit Baskin Robbins parking lot, doing Monty Python skits and flirting with the girls, all of us wearing those gender-neutral rugby shirts everyone wore then. My later boozy training was imperfect and uneven. I would drink a Bud Light and curl up and fall asleep on the couch. This drinking just makes me tired! It did not occur to me to have another fortifying drink when the effect of the first began to flag. This was in my 20s, and it went on like that for a while.

all ye who enter
all who tipple are not wounded

Once I’d moved into a group house with my longtime friends, you can just imagine how it went. My roommate, an equally inept tippler, would mix a pitcher of Martinis comprised mostly of saline slime dumped from an olive jar. I swore off Martinis for years. When I did finally discover the delights and horrors of hard liquor I was in a band and doing shots and all the rest. How many evenings did I hustle outside to the back yard of our band house to forcefully bark out a variegated mist of pilfered fraternity wine under watchful stars? Many evenings.

Well. What happens is, you grow older. It becomes more and more difficult to lift bags of potting soil without hollering like an animal. At work you exit your sporty little car with difficulty in the covered parking garage, and the inadvertent echoing groan escapes you like a cry for help, unnerving the 20-something gal three spaces away who briefly looks at you the way Anne Bancroft looked at the Elephant Man. Worst of all, the effects of the two day Scotch Squall become sufficiently horrific and unavoidable to give you real pause. I was finally spending a lot of time feeling crummy and not readily bouncing back. I once calculated that if I lived to be 80, I would have spent nearly 5 years of my life feeling out of sorts due to post-drinkum.

It was neither guilt nor shame nor a sense that I was wronging myself or my loved ones (though I was) that gave me the bright idea of stopping: it was the Humble Hangover that unhitched my wagon. I grew to dread them, really; to loathe them. When I stopped drinking, and I did it in a day (to my own surprise and following 25 amateurish years of boozing), it helped that the returns were immediate. I began to converse delightedly at gatherings again, unafraid of slurred inarticulation, I apprehended the afternoons and evenings through 5 rinsed and buoyant senses. I would awaken on glorious new mornings without the feeling that a hot pig was trying to burrow out through my forehead.

I never dreamed it would be that easy to just…stop. But I didn’t count on how positively reinforcing the clear days and nights would be. It’s like the cloud that lifts when, as a kid, you have your last spasm of stomach flu over the toilet, your mom with her cool hand on your back. Then suddenly the nausea lifts, and the feeling of normalcy and gratitude is like the most stridently beautiful sunrise you have ever known. Everything looks gorgeous. Remember getting over the flu?

Friend and neighbor, you have taken care of yourself and your loved ones, haven’t climbed behind the wheel of a car while tipsy, haven’t gone off the deep end. You’ve been responsible with your sipping (mostly), but you’re concerned. Are you a drunk? Are you sick, or worse? I dunno.

But I do know you are not a laggard for wanting to feel really freaking fantastic all the time. Everybody wants that. The desire to feel good is not a disease marker. Thanks to the thermodynamics of feeling good, though, your not unreasonable pleasure-seeking comes with a price tag; gagging flashes of nausea and the dislocating sense you have been scrambled in a transporter accident out near Starbase 11. Society calls this a bad hangover, and it did me in. If you’ve had one too many of those, you can call it whatever you want. You can even call it quits. If that’s the way you want to go, let’s get started. The nausea minutes continue to pile up, and the gilded wonder of a clear-headed morning awaits. Your call.

stop pulling that goddamned dog

man’s best friend
is an expensive afghan hound
afghan may mean drone strikes somewhere
here in the u.s.
afghan means a sleek-looking hound
at the end of a grasped leash.
aw look at the doggie
look at all the doggies
aw man’s best friend
you can’t have a dog
you’ll never take the dog out for a walk
aw yes I will, I promise
and even if you do
it’s an idiot’s game
man’s best friend spends every minute
straining against the leash
does anyone notice that?
man’s best friend wants to run
sniff pee-pee at every bush
make a little pee-pee himself
and take off running again
“whoa, that’s a tall order
i want a best friend, sure
a loyal yes-companion from the ranks
of the docile lower animals
but this is man’s dominion
we made it to the top
climbed here with our thumbs
where the hell are your thumbs, little doggie
thought so
you’ll be at the end of my taut leash.”
he doesn’t know he’s an afghan
and the pricey Shih Tzu’s id is indistinguishable
from that of the three-legged living rag
that nervous guy sold your neighbor
the Shih Tzu looks at the three-legged rag and thinks
that’s me
not bad
not bad at all
i like
the dumbass Shih Tzu doesn’t know from dominion
it has been bred to walk from room to room
“interesting breed. what are they for?”
to walk from room to room
none of these best friends know what they are
they just want to screw each other
and eat and make pee-pee
like us
is that such a big deal
you get to do that every day
or nearly every day
can your best friend
maybe take a crack at it, asshole
loosen that leash.
I said loosen it, jackass
i will knock you down
aw look at him strain
aw his little face
he doesn’t know he’s a prisoner
you dog wants to run
aw man’s best friend
he wants only to run!
but after maybe 30 self-congratulating minutes
you’ll be fatigued from hurling the slimed ball
in its plastic “Lower-Animals-R-Us®” claw
let’s get back to the condo
and leave our companion alone
back to the kingdom of pain, I mean man
back to a blanket in a basket
and a synthetic Purina snack of glued brown powder
shaped like a cartoon bone.

A Lib Confesses

I’m an NPR guy, okay? Yeah, I got beat up by the bike rack in 7th grade, earned my stripes like the rest of my lot – by being ill-advisedly sympathetic at the wrong time (see Homebuilders Association of Northern California versus the Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp). The bully, who I’ll here call JK, had kicked poor little big-butt Tony Matthews so hard in the ass during a soccer game in PE, the force had actually lifted Tony off the ground. I’d reacted spontaneously and unwisely, earning my adolescent “Bleeding-Heart-Soy-Based-Bonehead’ creds by briskly hollering at JK and eliciting from him a promise he would meet me after school. “Naw, we don’t hafta meet,” I’d actually said in those first panicked seconds of sobriety, attempting to de-escalate. Think that worked?

Stingray in the Stingray Day

When after last period I went to retrieve my Stingray with its sparkly banana seat and faux-wood-knobbed 3-speed stick shift (litigiously positioned to bludgeon my groin in the event of even the most minor biking mishap), JK was there grasping the handlebars of my beloved. This weasel-faced bully was about half my size and so homely I found myself actually pitying him (see?!) in the seconds before his surprisingly practiced fist introduced itself to my left cheekbone. Could I have taken him? Yeah. I could have taken him for a short run by fleeing like a panicked rag doll. But I knew he and his two minions would quickly catch and thrash me with renewed vigor. That’s right, he was backed up by henchmen, or henchmiddleschoolkids, more precisely, though to me at that moment they looked like grown bruisers with police records. While the two assistants stood in the background smirking with their arms crossed, JK struck me in the head once, twice, Three Times a Lady. There was no ceremony, no verbiage, just a dreamlike minute whose sweep-second hand took its sweet time rounding the face of my cheap ‘takes a licking’ Timex. POW! two three. POW! two three four five six seven……hoo boy glad that’s over the future pessimist exulted…..POW!!!

The blows fell with a stunning blunt force that to my utter surprise did not mimic the slappy-sounding, easy-to-shake-off punches one saw on TV all the time. I vividly remember thinking, as the punctuated jabs landed with the sickening sound of skin smashing into skin; “Shit! This is nothing like I imagined!” From that moment on I understood that were I recipient of a Kojak or Mannix-quality beating in real life I would likely not survive it, let alone straighten my collar and make out with a beautiful woman afterwards. Huh UH. The next day I walked into Ms. Stone’s math class with a face so swollen my cheek stood out in my peripheral vision, a nagging omnipresent reminder of my humiliation the previous day. “Hey, what happened to your face, Wing?” JK chided when I walked in, and from the back of the classroom Tony Matthews giggled with the rest. An early dose of The Bitter Medicine. I looked shamefacedly at Ms. Stone and the concern in her beautiful eyes made me love her anew. But that’s another column.

Mug of a Carpenter

Later that same emotionally misbegotten lifetime, I of course became a member of NPR; the broadcast maypole around which we mercy-dispensing Libs delightedly prance in our forest-green tights. I love NPR. My ex-girlfriend (read: wife) and I pledge to them semi-regularly, and in pitiable dollar amounts insufficient to earn us the coveted NPR Grail, or mug, as it’s known to the unwashed. I depend on NPR’s deep reporting, interestingly unpredictable interviews, and frontline real-time dispatches to help augment my world view, which is informed by the twin lights of mercy and fairness.

Having said that, I can tell you that when I turned on my car radio the other day and the NPR team were murmuring soporifically about salad or human rights or some such, I reflexively punched the AM button for escape. Sometimes the radiant self-congratulation of the NPR gang makes me want to go out and shoot an endangered Snail Darter in the legs. There, I said it.

The Left! Look at us! (those of you who are sick of looking at us, look away) No wonder JK beat me senseless by my newish Schwinn! Was it this quality of mercy that so strained the Romans that they simply HAD to beat up our Guy? Oh, and speaking of Christ, how did the ‘Left’, whose goofy public policy positions actually reflect New Testament teaching, lose Christ to a Conservative movement that has not only armed the Lord with a machine gun, but seems to crap on His less-advantaged sheep with impunity? I’ll tell you how. It’s a little something called Freedom; a much-maligned and tactically abused concept. Freedom is a cult here, I would suggest. It is safe to say the U.S. is beholden to a cult. Do we need deprogramming?

How May I Help You?

My friend David, with whom I discuss much, once asked me out of the blue, “Do you think the Socialist experiment in Europe has been a success?” It’s one of those Great Questions whose discursive answer-seeking can sum up so much. As I said to David that day, “…it depends”. What does our race want? What are people for (all thanks to Vonnegut) and how shall we address this exalted animal? How shall we comport ourselves in this dumb, brutish life, whose pageantry includes both creme brulee and slow beheadings? Shall we build elaborate systems to ensure that no individual goes unfed, unsheltered? Arguably, yes. In the U.S. , where Modern American Liberalism is practiced (vs Classic Liberalism), a microcosmic outcome of this seemingly sensible and Christ-like philosophical practice is the awarding of a little tin trophy to every kid on the losing soccer team. Yes, some of us see a merit-based reward system as barbaric, or at least unnecessarily hurtful to the little boob who can’t kick a ball when it’s right in front him, and should be taught that ineptitude can also be rewarded, and handsomely. Or should the goal of our species be individual excellence? To be superb, a roman candle fulfilling in absolute terms as much of ones human potential as possible in the time allotted, whatever that may be? Arguably, also yes.

What else are we gonna do with our idiot’s eyeblink of a life down here on this meaning-starved wet rock in the middle of literal nowhere? I mean, we got the overcomplicated neural firings, the opposable thumbs, the inexplicable qualia. It’s not like we’re simply very expensive dogs. Having been handed all this largesse by the Big Bang/Giant Bearded Man in a Terrycloth Robe (to summarize the two most popular hypotheses), are we really just supposed to stand down and shade each other from the sun? That’s it? Are we self-actualized, pinnacle-seeking animals, or cosmic social workers adrift in a poetic vacuum, placed here against indescribably remote odds to be at rest, absorb the moments, and see that no one starves? Your answer will depend largely on whether you live in a cardboard box or in a three bedroom house with a mortgage.

Coming Clean

Okay, I’m gonna come clean, as they say (or used to say – and seeing it in type I understand why they stopped saying it): I get Conservatism. At least, I grasp their once doctrinaire embrace of Freedom as an undervalued social compact whose role in history has been that of a golden thread weaving in and out of a shit-smeared burlap onesie. I do understand the inherent common sense and actual human glory that inheres in the Every man for Himself model. In the heat of an argument I once yelled at my conservative nemesis that the U.S. has a “cult of Freedom”, by which I meant we hold people hostage to the idea of Freedom, and in policy debates consider top-down systemic attempts to alleviate suffering a blow against absolute freedom. What good is this double-edged Freedom if it doesn’t help anyone who is suffering?

Eugene Delacroix-La Liberte guidant le Peuple
Lady Liberty’s wardrobe malfunction scarcely registers as she leads the revolutionary French in Delacroix’s famous painting

True Freedom can be shown to leave people worse off, from a public policy standpoint, when Freedom is invoked to push back against government policies that seek redress for the helpless. Seeing Obamacare’s mandate as a blow against Freedom seems absurdist on its face. Christ in his mercy would surely have forced such an issue in the interest of decreasing suffering. The Lord didn’t give a shit about anything but saving people. But, this Freedom thing; it is the natural state of affairs in the universe, like gravity, the weak nuclear force, and so on. Does it exist apart from or somehow loftily above our questions about suffering? Is it a Golden Thread?

 

Bible-Thumping Darwinists

It’s a fact, oft-noted, that the Conservative aspirational model that posits a human life as a pinnacle-seeking enterprise is simple Darwinism (tactical Bible-thumping aside). And that is not to denigrate the term. Still another name for it is Freedom (yawn). Does an animal in the wild give up his taxi to the wheezing guy next to him when it’s pissing down rain? Nope. Is that a bad thing? Only if you’re the wheezing guy with walking pneumonia. Contrary to the religious posturing that is anymore an essential amino acid in the GOP’s political DNA, the party that champions individual accountability and liberty (within the party’s own curious limits, it must be said – wombs and pills still fall under the Heisenbergian “both wave and particle” purview of Freedom’s High Priests) is the party that favors the Shaggy Ol’ Laws of Nature as a design for living. And they don’t even like animals as much as we snuggly Libs do! Can you imagine a platoon of Republican PETA militants angrily breaking into a cosmetics lab and liberating the helpless test beasties? If you ever see that happen you can bet the rescued Maybelline rabbits will make their next appearance on a rotisserie being brushed with clarified butter.

Libs are philosophically the opposite and apposite. They want to lend a hand to the poor, the disenfranchised, the dispossessed; a decidedly anti-nature way to go about things. Animals in the wild are as free as freedom gets, and they screw and eat each other with thrilling/disgusting abandon (respectively). So it’s a little odd how feverishly Liberals venerate the natural world given their total abandonment of that model when attempting to retool civil society as a Play-Doh equality factory.

The Paragon of Animals

Big Bill Shakespeare described a human being as “The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals.” We are probably that. Oughtn’t we, then, encourage one another to stand and fight with all our exalting means, and not succumb? I’ve taken my shots at Conservatism, have gotten hot under the collar just looking at the way their chins interact with THEIR collars. And they are a fat, slow-moving target at a glance. But I think I do understand that the heart of TRUE and unpolluted conservatism is not contempt for the poor and the downtrodden, but contempt for a culture that doesn’t see them as the Paragon of Animals but as lost ninny children who will never find their way.

A Conservative can be the most ardent humanist you’ll ever meet in this regard. And I get it. Homelessness and hopelessness and poverty and the desecration of the human spirit – these are real, misery-sowing, ongoing diseases that need a dose of burning disinfectant. But awakening the latent immune system inside a human individual, arousing the army of antibodies placed in us to overwrite our weaker nature and to buttress our better one – surely this is part of the cure, if only a small part. Yeah, we’re only animals. We’re not beings of light, but we have a strange capacity for renewal that isn’t explicable in the Darwinian model. We have the ability to incandesce.

Freedom Isn’t Boring and May be a Two-Faced Biatch

It does come down to Freedom, I’m afraid; an uber-American noun so laden with baggage it looks like an Eastern Airlines scab on Skycap strike day. Freedom? Haven’t we long since become bored silly by that numbing word, inured to its deeper, almost religious meaning by the stupidity of today’s polarizing shitheel discourse? Today’s Conservatives champion “Freedom” but many of them throw the word around so recklessly it amounts to disrespect for what is a sacred state of being. Take for instance the “Freedom Fries” the House of Representatives cafeteria began serving in place of French Fries when the Gauls had the balls to equivocate at the U.S. decision to lay down a generation-screwing dose of shock and awe on the already massively f****d people of Iraq. I mean, Freedom Fries?!

I don’t know that King John at Runnymede had that kind of semantic b.s. in mind when he momentously (if a little reluctantly) signed that piece of parchment in 1215. Freedom is not an invention, and neither a discovery. It’s like oxygen. But here in the States, where it is as ubiquitous as actual oxygen, “Freedom” has the same spoken narcoleptic firepower as the words “beige” or “Jimmy Fallon”. Freedom is the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights and Dr. King’s defiant march from Selma to Montgomery, and is absolutely central to every incandescent quality that makes us unique among the animals, that makes us human. Freedom isn’t an optimizer in a speech. It’s an element of the biosphere the “lower” animals don’t even notice. We’re higher animals, though. We owe it to ourselves to notice.

The Crackers and the Lorax

So, Conservatives? I understand that not many of you are raging bags of homophobic racism, but a few of you are. Dump your crackers in the public square, they’re screwing your mission. And your patriarchal ovum-diddling. WTF? Freedom, right? There is no Half-Freedom. For our part, maybe some day soon we Libs will stop glad-handing the Lorax, Dr. Seuss’ mustachioed, forest-defending cuddler that pit family members against each other for a time in the Pacific NW where the demonized logging business put food on many many families tables. Kids were suddenly questioning their parents’ working in the devil’s business, sawing down trees and upsetting the Lorax. I have yet to meet a Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp or laudably ancient tree that merits starving out a hardworking family of human beings. We’re the paragons, not that dumb little cross-eyed shrimp. Time and the universe stretch out forever. The shrimp will be back, as will the tree. Let’s get real.

Final nagging note to Conservatism from a smug Liberal weenie. You’re right – the Freedom of the human being may qualify for Grail status, and all barriers to its hegemony should be thrown aside. But Freedom isn’t curbed by government policy that reaches out to the dispossessed and downtrodden, those imprisoned by circumstances. On the contrary. Policies that alleviate suffering give thinking Hobbesian animals the possible respite they require to avail themselves of the graspable rungs of precious Freedom’s ladder. To put this in awkwardly scriptural terms, the means to grasp Freedom is to Freedom itself as John the Baptist was to the Savior. Just sayin’.

 

who do you think we are

bad-paving made good
we’re all of us warm,
doomed little torches;
or bitches, depending
on the day’s cosmological demeanor.
under the covers we’re alive, though
falling to the pavement we’re alive, though
taking our hits at scrimmage we’re alive, though
hurl us through the windshield; we live!
with blackened eyes, yeah
and uneven laughter.
but here comes the sun again,
elephantine footfall in the hallway
our daughter bursts out of her room in the morning
like a force of nature.
count the days if you want.
an arbitrary number, our living days
you (dear) give off warmth in waves
I can feel the waves, almost peristaltic
your biological life
the cellular processes make warmth
it comes off you under the covers in waves
machined and purposeful
when my mom passed the heat left her by degrees
but quickly.
what’s the hurry.
the big soup tureen hastily reclaims our ingredients
this is not a vacation
but a slinky running down the stairs
alright already
spend caloric heat as we burn down
alright alright already
burn down through all the days
we scarcely take notice of them
in 200 years or less
we will never have been here.
yeah yeah so we lie here in the morning
burning down and radiant
burning down and down to nothing
skin changing, eyes changing
telomeres work their dissolution.
thermodynamics will preserve our stuff
but not this hour of lounging under covers.
this long hour transparent as a neutrino.
it’s really all we’ve got,
more than enough.
it’s much much more than the Big Bang owes us.
I hope you remembered
to make the coffee last night.

T-Bird of Happiness and Crashboat

T-Bird Tragedy and Joy

Oh, and here comes the holiday season like a runaway Edsel, excuse me. It’s always a little surreal how suddenly it shows up. Another year? Really? Is that Jack Frost nipping at my nose or the taunting, flicked finger of the Grim Reaper? “It’s almost Christmas!” the little ones yell with unbridled glee. Yes, you tiny, careless immortals; it’s almost LAST Christmas. How’d the year pass by so quickly? Just a week or so ago we were throwing ourselves into the ocean in full-tilt escape from the brutalizing heat wave that we were sure would set the mountains on fire. Now, a couple of puny rain squalls later, the inevitable “fall” weather sweeps in as an almost reluctant little cold snap, and we Santa Barbarans respond by excitedly dragging on our pea coats and diaphanous, utterly useless Donna Karan scarves. We swoop our gossamer “winter” accessories around our room-temperature necks like NY hipsters or movie actors, turning up our collars and stamping our feet as if to shake the snow off our galoshes, we’re so giddy at the change of seasons and the prospect of candlelight and mulled wine. It’s the one time of the year you can gulp Tramp Juice from a soup-bowl sized mug without the other guests remarking about it behind their sleeves. The whole demeanor of the town changes

“Ooh, it’s a little chilly, isn’t it?”

No, not really. But let’s live it up. We get maybe 80 of these. It’s time to get about the business of Holiday Cheer. And what’s not to love? The city workers begin dutifully stringing the lights up along State Street, great arcing stars making of our downtown a glowing arbor. Suddenly the shop fronts all have paper snowflakes in their window displays, faux-Victorian carolers hunch and yell in close-harmony at every street corner, the chill evening air takes on that seasonally pleasant aroma as the town’s fireplaces gently surrender a fragrant bouquet of crackling cherrywood, and frightening soot-covered chimney sweeps flash-mob the rooftops with mad, high-stepping dance routines. Chim-Chimney, Chim Chimney, Chim-Chim-Cheroo, if you damage my ridge vent I’m likely to sue. Soon enough that strangely phallic Christmas Rocket erects itself near the Arlington Theater, they throw some lights on it and we’re off and running.

But first…ah, yes. First there is Thanksgiving to get through, the weird, uber-American ritual whose most famous visual expression remains that nightmarish Normal Rockwell painting of an aproned matriarch proffering a slain and naked bird; recumbent, belly-up, beyond embarrassment (the bird, I mean), its truncated little wing-arms relaxed at its sides, its formerly strutting legs now stiff and shortened and dressed in paper anklets. In the iconic painting, which like most of Rockwell’s stuff is meant to embody and crystallize the rubberized American Soul, the homespun Ma and Pa figures stand at the head of a table crowded with strangely leering family members in da Vinci-like attitudes of conversation, but strangely feral; all teeth and eyebrows and clasped paws. It’s an unnerving work of art. In the upper left-hand corner of the photorealist painting is a grinning boy with a slightly reptilian expression, and seated beside him a little sister figure likewise stares down the length of the table like a drowsy viper. In the lower left of the painting a man is laughing maniacally at the empty air, displaying a scary set of choppers, while a sunlit pear with a suggestion of humanoid countenance looks balefully up at him from a bed of grapes. In the lower right corner a man’s haunted eyes stare back at the viewer. Even for the diabolically exacting Rockwell, it is a strange and unsettling hymn to the Holidays, one of the most singularly dread-inducing paintings this country has ever produced. What did Rockwell call this thing? Freedom From Want. My alternate title, you ask? Horn of Plenty Heebie-Jeebies.

But Thanksgiving means well, and however cynically plasticized and oversold the “gather and be thankful” vibe is this time of year, however much it is leveraged by the Commercial Sector to brace us for the aptly named Black Friday, all doubts fly up the chimney with the cherrywood smoke when you start mingling with family and friends in closed quarters while through the windows brisk, happy breezes stir the trees and foliage in blanched autumnal sun. As hard as the numbskull forces of human avarice try, they can’t completely wreck Thanksgiving. They can’t strip away, for instance, my hard-won memories of my mom coming over on those Thanksgiving mornings.

Per the yearly ritual I would have dropped in on my mom’s apartment at Villa Santa Barbara the evening before to remind her of our Thanksgiving breakfast the next morning. She would inexpertly and comically disguise her uncertainty as to who exactly I was, and we would have our usual bemused summit for a couple hours, watch the home movies for the several-hundredth time, bat the same over-familiar questions and answers back and forth. I’d long since stopped being maddened by mom’s endlessly repeated questions, and came to be charmed by a universe that oversaw our elderly parents exasperating us with the same ninny repetitions they’d had to suffer when we were mindless little non-stop blabbermouths. Fair play.

The next morning, Thanksgiving morning, I would stop in to nab mom for the drive over to our place and explain our Thanksgiving date all over again. “Hey! What are you doing here? And who are you, again?” She would laugh nervously at her own question sometimes, but she knew in her core that I was on her side, that we shared something. “I’m your son, mom. Jeff?” “Right!” she would laugh again, making comic gestures of dismissal, still not quite believing it. But she would grasp my arm, dance me into the elevator and veritably skip from the Villa Santa Barbara lobby to my car parked on the street outside.

We would take the long way to our place, the miraculous, palm-lined, ceaselessly stunning Cabrillo Drive, the unlikely Pacific sparkling off to the left like an over-earnest special effect. At our condo, mom would be greeted like royalty, Judie and the kids rushing her at the door. Mom’s face would be simultaneously aglow and bewildered, Judie’s Dutch broodtafel likely adding to her dislocation as it featured breads and cheeses and sliced meats and hard boiled eggs. This isn’t what the Indians and Pilgrims ate, is it? I can clearly picture mom sipping delightedly at her mimosa as the rest of us blab away in conversation she only half follows, her sated half-smile turning to each of in turn as we speak, her expression a sort of uncomprehending exaltation in the moment. She didn’t know I was watching her watching us, her indefinable love and gratitude shining like an aura. She’s gone. This year will be our second Thanksgiving breakfast without her, and I’m unspeakably grateful for the sometimes harrowing 14 years we had her in town.

Sometimes after Thanksgiving breakfast we would flop onto the couch and flip through a photo album, one of the weird old ones I’d known since childhood. It had a dissolving, nautically-themed cover and stiffened pages to which the fading photos had been sloppily fastened an eon ago with now-opaque squares of yellowing scotch tape. I’d seen all these pics a hundred times or more growing up. When I was a kid I was bored silly by the album (as by everything else to do with my parents), all the black and white snapshots of laughing men in government-issue khaki, lots of pics of my mom – the beauty, the dreamer – now an 89 year-old with failing faculties and loose-fitting flesh. Of course as I grew older I became forensically interested in what the album held, particularly a photo of my dad, now long gone, as a 14 or 15 year-old. Wonder of wonders.

And here was a curling picture of Crashboat Beach, in Puerto Rico, 1956, at the foot of Ramey Air Force Base, that particular stretch of sand and surf a scene of so many storied parties and languorous afternoons during that time, my parents, Bob and Aloha, drinking and talking and laughing with Air Force chums and wives, a rough circle of lawn chairs, the men leering comically at the camera and hoisting cans of Falstaff beer, my dad there with a can in each hand, his smile-worn dimple catching the late afternoon shadowfall just so, his black curly hair already hinting at the premature gray that would soon compel comparisons to the actor Jeff Chandler. In the fading picture the seated women are wearing scarves over their hair, and Capri pants, and beautiful bug-eyed sunglasses. Just a lovely thing! Their legs are crossed, they’re all laughing with their lady heads thrown back, happy yaps aimed skyward forever. The men and women and the kids present are all turned toward the camera in a posture of hilarity (one! two! THREE!). Over the sea, in the sky behind the party, a single towering cumulonimbus cloud boils straight up into the sepia sky with frozen, explosive force, and mom has her feet up on the lawn chair and is hugging her knees. Though her face is turned away, the flesh is seen to follow the smooth cornice of her jawbone where it meets her neck, cleaves as snugly as the velour skin of a new love seat. Unlike the rest of the gang, she’s looking away from the camera and out to sea.

what i won’t do. the mandelbrot set. i’ll need more convincing. stop pulling that goddamned dog

not eat in public

what i won’t do

i’m not going to eat around strangers
i mean other people
i’ve made it very clear
the helpless Piltdown mastication drives me
to an inexplicable distraction.
i look at you and I see an hourglass figure
sand in all the right niches
Clairol hair
a lipless x-ray skull filmed in profile artlessly chomping
chomping and chomping
chomping and chomping
i see that everywhere
lipless awful chomping
like a death skull but lit up by x-ray
and ravenously chomping
the mandibles and chomping more annoyingly vertical
when undisguised by fancy-flesh
you’ve seen the film
probably around the 4th grade
why eat after that
why ever eat again
we have to eat a little
but not in front of these assholes
idiot mandibles disrobed, no lips, no flesh
know what that looks like?
looks like the skull is smiling, smiling like an idiot
the village moron smiling and cracking his gum
smiling and chomping smiling and chomping
while a rolling shadow of x-ray chow
gets hustled around the inside of the yap
like a wilding victim, this x-rayed bolus of food
hustled and harassed from molar to molar
until finally the great heaving translucent tongue
rises out of x-ray nowhere, pulses disgustingly into the cavern
to throw the thing slickly down the back stair.
Oh yum. They’re bringing out the hors-d’oeuvres.
No thank you.
They’re bringing out the catered hors-d’oeuvres.
No thank you.
Honey, just eat a fucking hors-d’oeuvre, it’s popcorn shrimp on a Ritz cracker.
Can you even hear what you’re saying? I’m not gonna eat in front of these people.
Yes, honey.
No.
Yes.
NO.
Yesss! Honey!
DON’T YOU YES HONEY ME. Listen. C’mere. Let me take you aside.
Don’t fuck up my office party.
Some mornings I wake up and the world is a contusion.
Oh, shit. Don’t fuck up my office party.
– whole fucking world a stubbed toe –
EAT THE CRACKER
No.
What is this?
I’ll tell you what this is. Put your purse down. Put it down. Do you know what your mouth is going to do to that Ritz cracker?
I don’t —
Answer me!
You’re scaring me. You idiot!
Oh, you’re scared. Take a look at an x-ray of your yap working a Ritz cracker.
I just got this job!
Smiling and chomping. You can’t even call it chewing!
Sssshhh!
This whole charade is a horror show.
Ssshht! Look, just don’t think about it. How hard is that. It’s an hors-d’oeuvre. IT’S A CRACKER.
I saw the HR lady eating over there by the empanadas, that’s another thing. She put the matter in her mouth and it disappeared.
…what the fuck are you talking about —
She put the food into her mouth and it disappeared. Where did it go? The mouth moves, and the jaw. The stuff doesn’t come back out. It’s gone. It’s gone. Where? Pushed down a living hole, that’s where. You’re cool with that? I am not. Pushed down a hole. I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not going to stand around with these jokers and push stuff into my mouth.
It does come back out! what’s wrong with you!
You know what I mean
NO I DON’T
I’m not eating with those people. I am not going to beat off into a plastic vial.
Oh my fucking god
Can’t I go into a room at the clinic with a magazine. Like in the rom-coms?
Oh my god!
“Please masturbate into this brown plastic pill bottle then race it back to us before the sperm die. DRIVE YOUR SPERM ACROSS TOWN, BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT IF YOU HAVE TO. Run into the clinic like Jack Lord. Hand the pill bottle full of your sperm over to the young lady behind the front desk.” huh UH! YOU masturbate into a pill bottle! YOU hand an attractive young volunteer a plastic bottle full of YOUR living sperm. You mandibular jackasses! Screw you!
<hissing> Eat the fucking cracker you asshole!! Eat the cracker!
No.

the mandlebrot set

An infinitely finite number
or number set, rather,
which when expressed graphically
flaunts its recursive hoo-ha
in lavish fractals and floral expressions
of frustrated finitude.
The Mandlebrot set.
what a stupid name.
So annoying. So fucking annoying.
Benoit Mandlebrot,
did he have a lot of time on his hands or what.
Who thinks this shit up?
Benoit Mandlebrot, for one.
that’s what the Mandlebrot set is to me
a guy with all the time in the world. this is what he does with it.
Do my dishes, Mandlebrot, you asshole.
Fibernucci, too, or whatever.
Clean out my closets, Fibernucci!
you layabout theorists!
not to sound like a government functionary
giving your collider the bad budget news
but what of the application
just look at this dump
spacetime may be a superfluid
what can that mean
when the sink looks like this
-you mean Mandelbrot –
Shut up

stop pulling that goddamned dog

mans’s best friend
is an expensive afghan hound
afghan may mean drone strikes somewhere.
here in the u.s.
afghan means a sleek-looking hound
at the end of a grasped leash.
aw look at the doggie
look at all the doggies
aw man’s best friends
you can’t have a dog
you’ll never take the dog out for a walk
aw yes I will, I promise.
and even if you do
it’s an idiot’s game.
man’s best friend spends every minute straining
against the leash
does anyone notice that?
man’s best friend wants to run
sniff pee-pee at every bush
make a little pee-pee himself
and take off running again.
“whoa, that’s a tall order.
i want a best friend, sure;
a loyal yes-companion from the ranks
of the docile lower animals.
but this is man’s dominion.
we made it to the top
climbed here with our thumbs.
where the hell are your thumbs, little doggie.
thought so.
you’ll be at the end of my taut leash.”
he doesn’t know he’s an afghan
and the pricey Shih Tzu’s id is indistinguishable
from that of the three-legged living rag
that nervous guy sold your neighbor
the Shih Tzu looks at the three-legged rag and thinks
that’s me
not bad
not bad at all.
i like.
the dumbass Shih Tzu doesn’t know from dominion
it has been bred to walk from room to room.
“interesting breed! what are they bred for?”
to walk from room to room
none of these best friends know what they are
they just want to screw each other
and eat and make pee-pee
like us
is that such a big deal
you get to do that every day
or nearly every day
can your best friend
maybe take a crack at it, asshole?
loosen that leash.
I said loosen it, jackass
i will knock you down
aw look at him strain
aw his little face
he doesn’t know he’s a prisoner
you dog wants to run
aw man’s best friend.
he wants only to run!
but after maybe 30 self-congratulating minutes
you’ll be fatigued from hurling
the slimed ball in its plastic “Lower-Animals-R-Us®” claw
let’s get back to the condo
and leave our companion alone
back to the kingdom of man
back to a blanket in a basket
and a synthetic Purina snack of glued brown powder
shaped like a cartoon bone.

i’ll need more convincing

light can be both particle and wave
dual mutually exclusive properties.
yeah, right.
they proved it with slits.
right.
i’ll need more convincing.
and what of it
two states at once?
what of it
that’s fine at the planck scale.
up here where the sun shines
on an upturned face
it’s another story
we’re a stupendous car wreck
of highly organized particles
a momentary spasm of beige brownian movement
invisible and inconsequential.
they recorded a couple making MRI love
and it was a nightmare of wet machinery
bumping and horrific
you saw everything
two machine-filled bags
and some urgent swarming
but it says here our electric laughter
rings through the numbing eons
travels outward
past where microlensing events
suggest other rocks and other skies
other lawnmowers in repose
under the blanched light of other suns
other realms. bikes, homework and cars
other blushing kids sneaking kisses
catching breath, afraid to smile. smiling helplessly.
for real. this part is real.
our embraces are finally meaningless, yeah. Probably.
no fear, no pain. no nothing.
just this mindless, schemeless bowl
kind of ordinary,
but filled to the lip with gorgeous collapsing stars.

 


flatworm

justanumber

Age is just a number
but at this number
I no longer feel comfortable
carrying a stupid
little fabric lunch box,
if I ever did.

Now I’ll eat only flat stuff
so I can secret my lunch
in my shoulder bag;
flatbreads, mashed bananas
flatworms, and so on.
I’ll have to develop
a taste for flatworms
but the epoch demands it.

I should have a rolltop desk
so stuffed with documentation
visitors who see it
are moved.
A desk to match
my tastefully graying temples,
my lightly shaved
George Michael beard,
my gravel drive.

Instead of a rolltop
I have a bus;
an unmentionable sorrow
I can’t help but mention.
This morning the glaring bald guy
with the fist full
of tattered papers
passed all the open seats
to squeeze in next to me.
There he began
his ritual bug-eyed
spraying consumptive cough.
eh-haagh-haagh-haagh!
eh-haagh-haagh-haagh-haagh-haaaaaaagggh!!
And me there,
refusing to alter expression, stoic
but for the little fabric
lunchbox at my feet.

How will I develop the taste for flatworms
which my new persona requires?
The same way one gets to
Carnegie hall.
Practice.

Fortnight

Gene Cernan rehearses flag assembling before Apollo 17_Wife adn daughter_ap17-KSC-72PC-379HR

Last night my daughter and her mom and I (her mom is my wife, you see) watched the television. We gloried in the almost cellular movement, seen from high in the air, of great herds pouring across the denuded dustbowl of the Kalahari in search of water. All they want is water! And when they’re not eating each other they seem so cooperative. I guess if they bitch and bicker their way across the Kalahari, none of them will get to the water, or it’ll take too long to get to the water, or some other thing ripe for allegory will transpire. Here on the ground it’s been a rough fortnight for the often graceless human animal, our anthropological manifesto poking inconveniently through the shiny veneer of civility we’ve managed, at great cost, to pull over our culture. This is a bad time to be a car in Baltimore, or a human of a certain color – and there are two unfortunate colors to choose from, neither one looking that great just now. Yeah, there’s more to it than a plaintive “Can’t we all just get along?” But it’s not a helluva lot more. Can we please move on from the Plasticene, or the Stupidlyobscene, or whatever this dumbass car-burning/secret spine-smashing epoch is called? What are we, animals? (hint: yes). Our opposable thumbs are supposed to exalt us in the animal kingdom, but so far have mostly resulted in fancier and fancier thumb-screws. Dear _____; please help us get our shit together, and while you’re walking around in your robe please make a nebula that looks like Charles. Nelson. Reilly.

Looking Back at the Surprise Attack

Jupiter II!

Tiptoeing past my middle-passage afraid of rousing (or worse, arousing) whatever cloaked figure awaits the creak of a floorboard or the sound of a stepped-on garden rake levering up to thwack my beak, I am nevertheless confident in the New Day. May it bring an Elysian lawn chair or the romance of slaughter at the disputed Hot Gates.

Startled by the flying beige flag! Yes, teens, my decline and your prom are coincident, this bit of manufactured magic acquires a seam once the liquefied plastic is blown in and all the Wonder of wonder bread is its balloon-daubed plastic bag. Einstein fires a bullet in a car traveling 800 feet per second per second, and another per second thrown in.

I know exactly where you are: the sweaty, temporal nightmare of roiling youth and feeling good, when Elton murmured from my Panasonic ball and chain like a man singing through a hangman’s hood.

So, yeah. Speaker tech and outerwear? Much later the radio “sounded” better. But we lost through that advance the letter of the law; Gilbert O’Sullivan stands down and in sweeps Ke$ha. We threw it all away for a pair of fancy-pants.

Really now; imagine actually waking one day, Samsa-like, to find you are an older man with sudden dappled paws. And I don’t mean “Perhaps”. That happened to me. Hand-backs shiny with Arbus cross-hatches and arranged spots like those that trouble the failing sun and indicating the same collapse.

The microwaves turn back around and the heat-death of All This sees God tiredly lifting the latches again, this time to let it all back in, tired energy pouring homeward from near and far, as was expected all along. “The day is done! Lamplighters, would you please snuff this dim embarrassed star? And turn up the stereo one last time on Billy Joel’s ‘Zanzibar’! Jesus, what a song!”

Star light, Star bright, the star our God turned off tonight, I wish I may I wish I might be delivered of this overbite. No more to burn the petals or leaves, and buh-bye melanoma. O teen you have some insufficient inkling but you won’t grow comfortably into this weirdness any more than I will return to pinrail and glory in the wings of Oklahoma.

But I I I I…I have the plucky interiority of a 30-something and have retained, against every expectation of my own childhood certainties of decay, a sense of timelessness, and now see kids glance sidewise at me several times a day.

I used to shiftily spy on ‘older adults’ with whom I would periodically be trapped, utterly trapped and panicked, my expression naked with dread. “Kid” (I’ll say); “as strange as you think growing older is going to be, I’m here to tell you that your untested powers of imagination are not up to the task of painting that picture on the inner walls of your earbud-deafened head”.

Now it occurs to me that, in the space of some individual year, no way of knowing which one, in a future whose approach I only guess (not a calendar year, but I’m supposing about 1 year of adventurism from a stem to a stern, more or less)

I’m likely to unravel like a ball of yarn, my sensory nonchalance, this thoughtless unenlightened physical well-being of my middle passage will be cruelly undone, my spirits in flight like foul bats from a foul barn.

An inexplicable, sudden cascade of cancers, renal failures, plummeting bone density numbers, aortic blockage, and x-rays that cause my doctor to breathe hard and raise his hand to his mouth – a melting pilgrim’s cornucopia of disintegration as my architecture takes the express line south.

That will stun me! Stun my hapless fa-mi-lee! Clusterfeck of bewildering setbacks and teary, faux-philosophical internal and external monologues (arms waving around like those of the over-earnest Branagh), hug the wife and kids and step onto that ceremonial last banana.

Questions, I have but a few; could we have been less murderous as our cowboys headed west? At the top of the Space Family Robinson’s flying house what’s that little bubble do?  This is what I have to look forward to.

Visionary thinking, an aching frame, every day the same sustaining pill. Don West and the older Robinson girl? Not Penny, but Carol or whatever? Thanks to Captain Robinson’s intransigence and the finally distracting Alpha Centauri mission itself, they never got together, and now they never will.