Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Desert of One

He looked over the top of the wall that I had helped him build, glanced out at the dust cloud on the horizon, and said "They are coming for us, you know?" Well of course I know that I can see just as well as he can, and besides, I am the pessimist in the group. I know 'they' are coming for us. However, those thoughts I keep to myself, and I content myself with a simple "Yes, I know, but I wonder who 'they' are this time." He smirks at me (he does a great bit of smirking), and replies "Does it really matter? There is always going to be a 'they', and 'they' are always going to come for us, and try to batter down our walls."  He is right, and it sticks in my craw that he is, no matter how much I wish it weren't true, his assessment of the situation is spot on, and I turn back to the desert outside our walls, and pose another stupid question. "How many do you think there are this time?" It is a stupid question, because the answer I know that is coming duly arrives loaded down with the sarcasm he does so well. "Does that matter either? Five, fifty, or five hundred. It's all the same to us isn't it?"

One of the sadder parts of our situation is that we are in a desert, an sandy outpost in the middle of nowhere. A place of no particular interest to anybody else in the world. A place that time should have scrubbed off the map ages ago. A place that you wouldn't claim to be from if you had any sense, and a place chosen by us for that exact reason.  Picked out with exactitude, and built by ourselves, for ourselves, in order to keep ourselves walled in, or maybe the world walled out, either way, it was chosen for the isolation it provided. And it was that blissful, hard-fought isolation that we wanted, that we prized above all else. To be far, far from the maddening crowd was our goal, and for an, all too brief, time it worked like a charm. However, the world sometimes just doesn't let you cash in your chips, and withdraw from the game quite so easily, and we were finding that out again, and to our cost.

We built the walls as strong as we were (at the time) able, and while we were fairly good at building walls, they are, by no means, impregnable.  This wasn't the first group to try to batter down those wall, and we didn't figure them to be the last. "This would have never have happened if you weren't so damn stubborn you know?" I had to say that to him, because it was the same thing I always said to him, when the enemy was at the gates, and he gave his usual reply of "why don't you go tell THEM that, and while you at it go fuck yourself."  It was our usual banter just to ease the pressure of waiting for the storm to break over us, and it was the same refrain every time. I doubt either of us even really paid attention to it anymore, but somehow without it, things just wouldn't have been the same.

Of course, in theory, I could have walked away and left him behind those walls by himself. There was no contract between us, nothing in writing anyway, and I am sure that he would not have been to surprised if I were to just pull up stakes, and head for 'higher ground' (as he would call it).  However, I was in his thrall, and both he and I knew that.  I could no sooner leave him than I could cut my own throat. Sometimes it seemed to be a beautiful idea, and on more than one occasion I tried it, but each time, he was there to stop me, and he didn't really have to try to hard to do it. It was one of the most infuriating things about him. He knew that it was impossible for me to leave him, and to his credit he never held it against me, or even acted like he knew. He is the most imperfectly perfect men that I have ever met, and that is high praise. Even his flaws, of which he was quick to own, were perfect. They just made him flawed enough to be even more perfect.

"We could just let them in, you know?" I said, hopeful that he would finally relent in another ongoing argument that flared between us on occasion. "And, IF I were to do that, do you think that would stop more of them from coming?" "Do you really think the hordes would stop with just letting in one lucky group?" I sigh (for the thousandth time) and reply "Of course, not you're right as usual, if we let in a few scouts then battalions are sure to follow." "But, do you think they will ever stop?"  He looks over at me with real determination in his corn-flower blue eyes, and says "no they won't stop, you know they won't fucking stop, you knew they wouldn't fucking stop when you signed up for this, and you also know that I am not going to fucking stop either." "So why are you asking such a silly question?" I am not shocked by the venom in his reply, and my feelings, though slightly wounded, will recover from his display of anger, but I still mutter "because I figure that you would, one day, some day, give me the answer I want to hear."

That's the sad thing about us humans we always have an answer that we want to hear, not that we get to hear it, or that we would believe it even if we did, but we still long to hear it.And when we don't hear the answer we want, we tend to get peckish.  But peckish or not ,  I have to turn to the walls that I helped to build, and try to repel 'them' those nameless ones that are battering at the gates. Whomever 'they' are,  the people that won't be happy until they shatter the peace that we have found here in the middle of nowhere. The peace that we foolishly try to preserve, knowing that 'they' will not stop coming. Knowing that 'they' have no other purpose, whether they are fully aware of it or not, but to destroy our desert of one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The fellow above is one Count Leopold Berchtold, and his (only) claim to anything that would pass as fame is that he was the Imperial Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the outbreak of World War I. I do not know if the good Count has any living descendants left to be offended by this post, but here's hoping that if he does they aren't so bored as to find this blog post. History remembers him only for the 'job' he held and even then probably not very fondly, or very well.  History is written by the winners, and Count Berchtold was on the losing side, only the melancholy historians of the world, the ones who are somewhat fascinated with the 'what ifs' of history would have anything other than a passing interest in the Count.  His term in office was from February 17th, 1912 until his 'fall' on January 13th, 1915, just 24 days shy of three years. However, those years were vital to the history of the world as we know it today, and the Count's performance, or lack thereof had far reaching effects that he probably never envisioned when he began to sign his name to all sorts of important documents as Foreign Minister. We never really understand the ripple effect of our actions until it is too late, and sometimes we fail to understand the effects at all. Thus, history is a fickle, fickle bitch.

The Count was born wealthy, married wealthy, and probably died wealthy. He was reputed to be one of the Empire's richest men, so it is sometimes difficult to have a ton of sympathy with him, and his plight/fate.  Although his plight was pretty bleak, he was appointed at the tender age of 49 (the youngest foreign minister in Europe at the time), and without really having the qualifications to do the job that was thrust upon him.  I feel his pain, there are times at my job that I have a similar feeling, but I guess, like the Count, we should just try to do our best, and hope no one catches onto the idea that we are basically faking it.  Luckily for me, my responsibilities aren't nearly as onerous at his were, and if I fuck up millions of people aren't going to be killed, maimed, or otherwise affected in bad ways. 

Still, you have to feel sorry for the poor bastard, in over his head, and harnessed to a creaking, decrepit Empire that was on its last legs, shackled with an army poorly trained, and composed of about 30 different nationalities, and forced to deal with a bureaucracy that was filled with village idiots.  Not that he covered himself in glory while fulfilling his duties.  After his fall, he retired to his country estate (don't we all have a country estate), and lived the high life, playing no further role in the events that he helped to create. A pretty sweet gig, if you can get it, and one that was probably better than he deserved.

However, the Count and his Empire did have a partner in the dance of destruction that was to engulf Europe during the late summer of 1914, and that partner (and to many the real villain of the piece) was Imperial Germany. Not the Nazi Germany that we all know and love, but the Kaiser/Bismarck Germany. The Iron Chancellor, and his Kaiser were the true power of the partnership that would be known as the Central Powers during the 'War to end all Wars'.  It is clear to any simple student of history that Austria-Hungary was clearly the second string/fiddle in their little tryst with Imperial Germany. The Germans were an organized, well-drilled, experinced fighting machine, with a strong-willed genius at the helm of the ship of state.  Bismarck had his flaws, but in his day, he was not someone you wanted to fuck with. 

And that is the basis of relationships/partnerships there almost always is a weaker partner. One that is the star, one that is the role player. We all remember Michael Jordan, but Hoarce Grant won a shit ton of rings too you know.  Not the best analogy, but I am not that creative, and you get the general idea. In these types of partnerships it is actually the weaker member that calls the shots. You would think Germany would just (metaphorically) reach over, and slap Austria-Hungary a few times and scream 'keep it together you fucking idiot, and we can win this war.'  The real true of the matter is that Austria-Hungary, by being the weaker of the two can always say 'sorry Germany, but if you dont give me more help, I am going to collapse entirely, and then you are fucked brother.'  And, if you are Germany, what choice do you have? The wolves are at the door, and you need all the help you can get, and any help is better than no help, and if the bumble fucks you have as partners are the only thing between your backdoor, and the wolves, well then you better help keep them afloat, or shit is about to break bad for you.

Suddenly all those rosy ideas about you being the big man in this alliance are roasting like marshmellows over an open flame, you have to help them, or face the cold, hard fact that without them, you are doomed (doomed I tell you), and no one likes to be doomed, not even melacholy students of history. So, you shrug your (slightly broad) shoulders, and lean into the burden that they bear, because by becoming their partner, you have signed up to help shoulder their burden(s) as well as your own. It does not matter if your burden was enough, or that you were barely keeping your own shit together, what matters now is that you have to help with theirs, or face the mutual destruction of the partnership that you so painstakingly put together.

It doesn't matter if the game is no longer worth the candle, you are trapped like a rat in a maze of your own making, and you are beginning to suspect that whatever 'cheese' there was has long since been moved out of your immediate reach. All you can do, all you can hope to do is prolong collapse long enough for a solution to either come to you in a flash of inspiration, or someone to see your distress, understand that you are 'tired of being Germany, and want to be Austria-Hungary for a while', and lean into your burden to help you. Sometimes that happens, and during those golden moments when it does, you should be grateful, and say thank you, and remember Count Leopold Berchtold, after all someone needs to.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What Measure is Man

I have your measure my dear, and I am not talking about how tall you are. That does not matter, be it 5 foot nothing or 10 feet tall, and bulletproof, I still have your measure. Granted, it took me years to get your measure, and it was quite the task to do, but rest assured that finally I have your measure. Also rest assured that this measure, that I have taken so very much effort to obtain, I will use against you in the most insidious ways. I will not be gentle, nor will I be kind. Gentle and kind have gone the way of the dodo bird. They are non-existent.  And that is as much your fault as it is mine, so do not expect mercy, I certainly do not.

Because, quite simply, we passed the kind and gentle stage a long, long time ago. That time was before I had sorted out the type of person you are, and when I was young, dumb, and stupid. Those days have, for the most part, passed. Now I am old, and not quite the fucking retard I make out to be, and I have put your round peg into the round hole into which it fits.  The sad part of all of this deep thought is that it did not have to turn out this way, you could have with just a simple, non-complex gesture, or a wave of an out-stretched hand  made this all better. But, you did not choose to do that for reasons that are inexplicable to me, and that I am sure make perfect sense to you. However, those reasons are the reasons that I am measuring you up for a fall.

 And fall you shall, as sure as the sun rises in the east tomorrow, you will fall, and I can only hope that I am the architect of your downfall.  It will give me the greatest possible pleasure to be the main reason that you come crashing down to earth.  Welcome to the ice that the rest of us have to suffer. I hope it is cold enough for you, and that your brain stops working from that cold.  I hope you freeze just like the rest of us. Mainly because it will be the first, and perhaps only, feeling that you share with the rest of us mere mortals. 

It is this painstaking task of taking your measure that has occupied me for a very, very long time, and I can only hope that, since I have managed it, that it has a happy effect upon my life. I figure that since I have sorted it all out, that I might be able to be sleep better at night.  Sleep the sleep of the just if you can, and snore away the day secure in the (mis) conception that you have it all sorted out.  You don't, and it will make me so very happy to show you that you are mistaken.  Because regardless of how tall, or short you are, I have your measure, and I am telling you this as a warning. The warning is that perhaps whatever attention you deign pay to me just is quite enough. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Magic Carpet

Step on board my magic carpet ladies and gents, it is not the prettiest pig in the poke, nor it is the most stable, but it is mine, and if you will indulge me this once, it can be yours too. That is if you are willing to suspend, at least a modicum, of belief. Because without that suspension and lack of (full blown) belief, well magic carpet rides become a whole lot less magical.

So, step aboard, mind the fraying around the edges, and above all, pay attention. This carpet ride is not as effortless as it seems, and it is taking most of my, very limited, skill to keep it air-borne. If you distract me too much with inane questions, then we might crash into some (in)convenient mountainside. And that would be awful, just awful.  Either way mountains aside, try to enjoy the ride, for it is a ride, and like all rides it will, eventually, come to an end. But that is for later, for now enjoy the scenery.

Certainly someone will need you back down there on the ground, but once air-borne there are no refunds, and remember to keep your arms, and hands inside the boundaries of the carpet at all times. We do not want to become unbalanced, or unstable. I wish the carpet was more luxurious, and could provide you with every little thing you want, but we are working with a limited budget, and space is at a premium. Also, be careful to not get too excited about this being a happy magic carpet, it certainly has the potential to be a thrilling ride, but it also has the ability to be a 'fuck the lot of you' type of ride as well. One never knows where the carpet is going to take you, well that isn't strictly true, one does know, but that one is a cryptic fellow, and isn't likely to tell you beforehand, that would ruin the trip.

And it is a trip, one that you might not like (think bad acid), or one that you might want to continue on for a few years, or even forever, if you are allowed. Magic carpet are fickle bitches, and you are never going to be sure when the ride is going to end. It will end eventually, hopefully not in tears, but ending is as certain as the sunrise tomorrow. There will be pain on the journey, do not doubt that for a second, and if I decide to open my bag of tricks, and offer you one of a billion ways to feel no pain, then you have a tough choice in front of you. It is entirely your decision, but be aware that not feeling any pain is tantamount to wanting to get off the ride.

If we are inclined to stop the ride because the pain is too great for you, then be aware there are no refunds, and you will not be invited to ride again. There is a list of people who have made that choice before, and once on that list you are on it for life.  On the flip side, there is a great deal of pleasure to be had on the ride as well. You just have to have an open, but not too inquiring, mind.  If you allow the ride to just be the ride, and don't try to stitch together the fraying bits of the carpet, or attempt to 'spot shot' any of the noticeable stains, then the ride will be like riding on a dreamboat. 

And that is the key to this ride, or any other magic carpet ride that you choose to take. The ability to look over the small flaws, and see the big picture, if there is a big picture to be seen. We all like to think there is a big picture, but I am quite sure that millions of us are deluding ourselves into believing that particular fantasy.  Though you may seem secure throughout the ride, be aware that sometimes (to steal a line from HUM) that downward is heavenward.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Pictures of Them

As you stand there in the ruins of another failed relationship, amongst the blow back from the horror that just happened, do you start to think? Or are you so stunned at being told, in more than one way (and maybe even a foreign language) to go fuck yourself that you cannot even form a single clear thought. The storm you've just witnessed may have taken your breath away, and left you feeling like you've been hit by a bus, but it surely wasn't that unexpected. After all, you entire 'relationship' life has been one storm off after another. The ruins of your failed relationships make Egypt green with envy.

However, once the shock of the loss has passed, and it will pass eventually, you start to realize that you have in fact been here before, and if history is any judge, you will be (sadly) here again. You close your eyes, and you picture the latest ruin, and it finally occurs to you, that if you were to line her up beside all the other 'hers' that have told you to fuck yourself, it might look very familiar. The people you call your friends have made this joke for years about your 'type', but you scoffed at that saying you were not so limited in your appreciation of the fairer sex. Then you start to ponder, after a while at least, if maybe, just maybe those so-called friends were on to something. Something so vague and buried in your own psyche that it takes someone with some distance to point it out to your blinded eyes.

The horror that it entails is not something that you wish to consider too much, after all, it is a startling, and somewhat disturbing realization.  It is not just the sad fact that if you were to line up pictures of 'them' (them being your last 5-7 relationships) you might detect an odd fact. That fact being that if a stranger were to look at the photos they might ask "Oh, are they all sisters, or related somehow?" You would wince with pain if you were asked that question aloud, but as you put those pictures (both real and the ones you carry around in your head) into an "all-star studded ex-girlfriend" line up, you realize, that the similarities are eerie.  The sad truth of the matter become suddenly, shockingly apparent right there before your very eyes. You sir, have a, what is commonly referred to as a 'type', and there is no mistaking it. The evidence is overwhelming.

Of course, you try to mount some sort of (weak, unconvincing even to you) defense, in the hopes of convincing someone, anyone that you do not have a type. Then again, as you ponder this concept deeper, you begin to wonder all sorts of other things. Things you are afraid to verbalize because if you spin the idea out to its logical conclusion, that conclusion just plain frightens the pants off of you. And the world is a much better, safer place if you mange not to take off your pants.