Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lost, one Saint Christopher

Now I lost my Saint Christopher now that I've kissed her

My musical tastes were once described by someone who knew them well at the time, as being of two types, death music and hate music. I am not exactly sure they aren't the same, but after some careful consideration, I figure that assessment was pretty close to the mark.  I like to think my tastes have, unlike me, matured over the years, but they probably haven't. I would maybe tweak the variety to add "thinking music" but that probably still falls into the former two types as well.

The above quote is from a song called Tom Traubert's Blues by a fellow by the name of Tom Waits. It is a lovely song, and you should give it several listens, it's imagery will make you wish you had one hundredth the talent of M. Waits. I lack even that much talent, but I can still appreciate the song, and the story it is telling with such amazing power. My collaborator, Ladislaw, from what I have been able to tell during our brief time as collaborators, has musical tastes that border on the awful.. I did not like the idea of attempting to impose my own taste upon them, but some times people need saving from themselves.

One of the first songs I recommended to Ladislaw was Tom Traubert's Blues or as they know it Waltzing Matilda (it's other title), they loved it (as if I would recommend a bad song), and we've had several listens to it since. I explained that I had a favorite line in the song, what that line was, and how one day I should write something expanding on it. Well, that has never happened, and it may or may not ever happen, but the theory is sound. Ladislaw chose the above quote from the song as their favorite line, and this post is a small, terrible tale about what that meant.

I am a card carrying cynic, and a bit of a brooder by nature. I have been called gloomy by a few people, the few people that actually know me, and I figure that they would have a pretty good idea. It has has been said of me that "he doesn't like a lot of people, but those he likes, he likes." A pretty good summing up of my view on the world. Trust is a very valuable commodity, and I do not trade in it particularly well or often. However, once you obtain it (like some sort of knighthood) it is pretty much yours, barring some unforeseen disaster, for life. It is not given lightly, nor should it be received lightly. It is just the way I operate in the world.  The "truthful slander" of pessimist has been hurled at me by quite a few people, and in the main, I don't believe it was intended to be a compliment. I am a huge (not just in size) fan of Arthur Schopenhauer. Herr Schopenhauer is not for the faint of heart, and one of the things he is known for is the idea of "cosmic pessimism." It seemed brilliant when I first read about it decades ago, and nothing in the intervening years has happened to change my opinion of it. I will leave it up to the curious among you to Google it at your leisure, if you so choose, if not well then you are just reinforcing the theory. It need not detain us here.

Since we had nothing of any real importance to do, Ladislaw, and I discussed what that line meant. I am of the opinion that since St. Christopher is, among other things, the patron saint of travelers, that the fellow in the song lost his St. Christopher after kissing "her' because he has found love right in front of him, and no longer needs to wander. Wandering is a lovely thing, and I have been known to take a good, solid wander from time to time. Some times in the hope of finding something, some times in the hopes of just getting lost. Being lost is, in many ways, both a terrifying, and wonderful experience. Terrifying in the sense that, you've no clue where in the universe you are, and no real idea how to get back to where you think you belong. If you belong anywhere at all.  Being lost is a lot harder to do in this day and age, but I highly recommend it. Get lost, but do it properly, by that I mean get really fucking lost, get lost at night, get lost at night in a rainstorm, and get lost at night, in a rainstorm, in a shitty part of town. You will, if you are sober enough to form the thought, start to think that being lost isn't exactly what you had planned in the first place, and you might even want your mother, or at least some other warm, welcoming companion.

However, being lost can be, if done correctly, a wonderful experience. Lost can be freedom. If done properly, lost is the lovely state of having no one to answer to, and nothing to apologize for. No one knows (or likely cares) where you are, and no one will come looking for you to add the weight of the world to your wandering shoulders. Lost is a very personal thing, and you can choose how lost you want to be. Do you want to be lost to the entire world, or just a portion of it? You can with the push of a few buttons give your location to whomever you chose, or at least a general idea of where you think you are. Your last known whereabouts given to the right person, can be a lovely starting point to a wonderful, shared, and exciting time.  Or, do you just want to be lost to a certain group of people? Your boss, your annoying as fuck co-workers, the bank, the student loan people, wives or husband (your own or other people's), crazy ex-girl or boy friends who stalk you even whilst saying they hate you, or that group of clowns that beat you up in grade school. There are an infinite number of groups or people that you prefer to think of you as lost.

The word planet comes from some impossible to pronounce or type Greek word that loosely translates as "wandering star." I like to think of all of us as wandering stars, and it is upon our wander through the universe of life that we encounter other wandering stars. Some we like, most we probably don't, some we have to try to avoid collision with, and some that we attempt to wander in the same direction as for as long as possible. It is your wander, it is your Saint Christopher, and hopefully (if you are very, very lucky) you get to lose your Saint Christopher after you kiss her (or him), and get to wander a lot less for a while (maybe a good long while, but nothing is written in stone). Enjoy that wander, but remember you are, in many terrifying and wonderful ways still lost.

P.S.   I was going to expound upon Ladislaw's theory, as told to me, about their favorite line, but decided to let them do it for themselves. After all, it is their theory, and they are quite capable of writing it themselves. Therefore, Ladislaw, when you climb out of whatever tart's bed you are warming for the nonce, and get sober enough to form what passes, for you, coherent thought, you are now welcome to write your reply. I am sure our vast readership awaits with bated (not wasted) breath.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A new first time

Introducing ones self to a group of strangers is always awkward, no matter how clever you are. And I'm not very clever, but rest assured that I am a real person, despite allusions to the contrary, and not a figment of anyone's imagination. The hard work of introduction was already done for me in a previous post and expectations were set intimidatingly high, so it's probably past time for me to contribute something. 

I had no intention, when I volunteered my services as a grammar nazi, of being recruited for actual material. But once the invitation was extended, I couldn't resist. In a past life, I wrote every day. It was therapy and expression and entertainment all rolled into one and I loved it. But then I got a real job and a real life and got distracted by them. So it has been a long time since I was in the habit of gathering and storing up ideas to write about. But like a fat squirrel hiding nuts for winter, I'm hopeful that the instinct will come back to me. Ideas for poetry have always seemed the easiest. One image or a single idea can get you through a whole sonnet. And you only need half of an idea for anything shorter than that. I've written some truly terribly poetry in my time, but I maintain that the ideas were good. And ideas for fiction are pretty simple too. Just make something up and run with it as far as it takes you. None of this guarantees that the end result will be worth reading, of course. It only means that something does get written. I've never written anything like a blog, so my apologies in advance if my contributions bring down  the atmosphere of this establishment. If I wait for a good idea to strike, we'll all be a thousand years old before I write anything. So I'm just going to tell a story and let you decide if it's any good.

When I graduated from high school, to have called me a nerd would have been understating things dramatically. I made Anthony Michael Hall look worldly and sophisticated. And in the course of my sometimes-painful nerd trajectory, the July before I went to college, I was awarded a trip to Arizona for super-geek summer camp called The American Academy of Achievement. It was a week of lectures and seminars given by speakers who had supposedly accomplished something noteworthy. Most of the other participants skipped the speakers and sat by the pool sipping fruity drinks. But I was a geek among geeks and never missed a lecture. The guest list was a little bizarre in retrospect... Who thought it was a good idea to put Laurin Hill and several five star generals on the same agenda? I don't remember much about any of the speakers except that one spilled his coffee all over the podium. However, on the last night, there was a banquet. We all got dressed up and had assigned seats at fancy tables. There was a speaker, of course, and some other presentations to conclude the week. When I finally found my assigned seat, I remember glancing around and the names to the right and left of mine. The name card next to mine read "James Earl Jones." I looked frantically around to see if there had been some mistake, but sure enough, he was walking towards his seat. He was instantly recognizable, if heavier than I'd seen him in movies, and he was breathing hard when he sat down. I introduced myself when he did, but I didn't have the nerve for much conversation. Mostly i just listened to his voice as he spoke to other people. It's been a long time, but I specifically remember what it sounded like when he laughed... That deep, warm chuckle that I've heard so many times in movies but sitting right next to me. When the dinner was over and everyone said good night, he shook my hand and said, "It's been my pleasure, Lucky." Now this blog is semi-anonymous, but my name is not Lucky. Not even close. I'm not sure how he came up with that, but I didn't have the heart to correct him. So I just said "Goodnight, sir." and went on my way. But now when I need encouragement on a particularly shit day, I just remind myself that James Earl Jones thinks my name is Lucky.

And if you say so, Mr. Jones, it must be true.

Deus ex machina

In those horrible (or is it horribly) brown eyes, I can see the past, the present, and the future. The past we didn't share, but are beginning to spin out like a spool of cotton candy at the fair. Wrapping our pasts around each other, trying to explain the things that make us the people we are today, and trying to figure out if those two people will ever have a mutual past. Your past, that does not contain any large R romantics like me, and my past that is littered with the graves of far, far too many failed attempts at expressing that Romanticism fluently. The past that is somehow managing to haunt us, even though we haven't fully explored it yet. The map of our past consists mostly of places marked with the designation terra incognito. Undiscovered areas of each other than can only be revealed by asking the proper questions, and the giving of open, honest answers. Honesty, like teamwork, is essential. It allows those blank, scary areas to become vistas that we want to revisit again and again. There will surely be things in both of our pasts that we will be terrified to reveal, but that shouldn't stop either of us. Nothing has stopped us yet, and simple things like "someone we used to know" shouldn't stop us now.

 The present, the day to day conversations that probably go on for far too long, and monopolize our time to the exclusion of others. The excluding of others because when you are in the room, it doesn't matter how many other people are there, you are, for me, the only person in the room. The present that has exploded upon our placid existence like a flight of Savoia bombers blasting Barcelona into submission during the Spanish Civil War. The present that consisted of my awful alarm clock blasting me awake far too early in the morning for this shit, and as I pound the snooze button into submission, my first coherent thought is about you. Wondering what you are doing, wondering how you are, and wondering if you are doing any wondering as well. The present that consists of "all our yesterdays" and is right here in front of us, demanding our attention like a four year old child that really, really has to go to the bathroom. The present where I really want to start one of those overlong conversations with you, but won't because (for me) the last one ended so poorly that I am not sure how to make it better, or even if I can. The present where I want to make things better, but am realizing just how difficult that task is, and how inadequate I am for it.

 The future that we are trying to negotiate like it is the Treaty of Versailles, fraught with all sorts of boundary disputes and obstacles. Some we are making ourselves, some that are seeming insurmountable, some that merely dificile (the French word sums it up much better), some that are tricky, and some that are like "dreams in stone" seemingly hard, but really just constructs of our fevered collective imagination. Daring to dream, but dreaming in stone just to be on the safe side, and tethering those dreams to a glass ring that we keep beside the phone for just such a purpose. The future where I have climbed down from the mountain of seclusion that I was busy scaling to its peak, and turned away from the "five year" plan I had carefully constructed to meet you somewhere in the middle of the plains, where I begin to make new plans that are struggling to include you, and to keep pace with the radical shifts in both our moods. There has to be more than one plan, because there are many possible futures in front of us. The four futures that I have already envisioned, and the multitude of them that I have yet to ascertain. Lacking a TARDIS to project myself into the future, and to see if there is a future that exists where we are together as I think we should be, I have to resort to my rational side, and begin to concoct  the dark plans that involve me killing the large R romantic side of me that got us into this awful, but great, situation in the first place.

The problem that the murderous rational me faces is that he has also looked into those horribly brown eyes as well, and sadly sees the same thing as the foolish large R romantic in me sees. That, as far as we have been able to tell, has maybe happened one other time in our collective, but separate existence. We have yet to find the Deus ex Machina that will allow us to solve what seems to be a unsolvable dilemma, for that what Deus ex Machinas do, they solve the unsolvable problems that people like me create by being a special kind of fool. However, the mad man in this tale doesn't have a box that allows for time travel, all he has is you (for the nonce) and however loose that grasp may be, he is going to try to hold on for just a little bit longer in the hope that past, present, and future come together into one moment of pure luck. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Noir et bleu

Everyday, if you search hard enough, is an anniversary of something, or some one's birthday, or sometimes both. There are way too many things, and way to few days for it to be any different. Some of these things or people are important, and some are only important to one, or maybe (if you are lucky) two of you. Some of the occasions are happy ones, some are sad, some are tragic, and some just really should never be celebrated again. Today falls into the latter category. Thus, the image above. It is, quite obviously, a cemetery a place where things, usually people are buried. However, cemeteries can be useful for the burying of all sorts of  other things, and they don't all have to have a physical address. There exists cemeteries of the mind, places in the dark corners of your brain that need never to be explored again. Wastelands that would made T.S. Eliot proud. Doors that the part of you that still likes to pretend you are sane have locked, and hidden the key in a far, far away place. And speaking of Mr. Eliot here's a bit of his "The Waste Land" just for dramatic purposes.

The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries

Of course, that is said much better than what I have to say, but I am going to say it regardless of my lack of skill. Most things undertaken in a moment of awful daring need not be found in our obituaries. Some of those moments need to be written out of our (shared) history, and never spoken of again. Life is, in the main, a series of unfortunate events, with the occasional flash of brilliance to keep it from being entirely as black as Monty Burns' heart. Sometimes the things we can't remember suddenly become the things we can't forget, and the gloom descends even further. But, and it is a rare occurrence, sometimes those flashes are just as bright as the summer son of York, and they rehabilitate the gloom

I have written about cemeteries of the mind before (see "The Third Time"), they are places in my mind where the past, failed relationships of my life are buried. There are many gravestones in that cemetery, and each has a name, and some dates engraved upon them. The dates are tricky, sometimes there are four dates. The date I first met the occupant of the grave, the date we first decided to hitch our wagon to each others star, the date that it all went terribly wrong, and the date of the actual burial. Sometimes those dates are the same, or very close in time, sometimes they are years apart, sometimes there aren't four dates. The fourth one is the hardest one to engrave, and many times I avoid doing the engraving due to a combination of moral cowardice, and foolish hope. But as with most things it must needs doing, and the time always comes where the fourth date has to be engraved in stone, not merely penciled in, in the vain hope of some Lazarus like resurrection of a dead relationship.

Therefore, like Antony, I have come to bury you, not to praise you. The praise I gave you was mostly ineffective anyway, let us hope the burial has more sticking power. Not to say you didn't have praiseworthy qualities. You were fond of saying that when I "looked at you, it made you feel as if you were the only person in the room." And that wonderfully lyrical statement, so unlike your usual prosaic view of the world, was spot on true. During the time between the second and third dates, you were the only person in the room, even when you weren't even in the actual room. The first date, and the last date on your particular gravestone are quite far apart, and that speaks volumes. It speaks to both the foolish hope I mentioned earlier, and to the "large R" romanticism that afflicts me. It was that romanticism that made second date possible, it was the over bearing usage of it, that made the third date happen way too soon. Now it is the realization that the monopoly on my romanticism that you once possessed has been broken by another, that makes engraving the fourth date necessary.

The ground in the above picture looks hard, baked by the sun and as tough to dig in as concrete. It was soon to receive a wonderful, softening rain, but that came too late for the burial that I was there to do.  I know all of this because I took the picture with just this burial in mind, and was later drenched to the bone by the softening rain. However, just because something is hard to do is not a reason to postpone or cancel doing it. In many situations it is the opposite, because something is hard it needs to be done, and sometimes it needs to be done with all deliberate speed. The spadework had already been done, shared between us like the partnership that we once were. You dug with real determination once you came to the realization that we needed to be buried. All that really remained was the lowering of your figurative body into the yawning hole in the ground, and some talented soul to say a few remorseful words as the band played the pipes and the chorus.

 But, maybe that is where I am missing the boat, maybe the graves in my cemetery contain not just the memory of the second party in my relationships, but maybe they contain a little piece of me in them as well. Maybe in the neat little row upon row of (mostly) silent graves there is the sum of the parts of my soul buried as well. It is a soul made black and blue by the bruises you so skillfully placed upon it, when you were inspired, and I did inspire you (at least in this context.,You could make someone (i.e. me) feel very, very bad about themselves. Flaws that seemed to be merely quirks of ones personality, became the San Andreas fault line under your careful, painful tongue lashings. Those remain, in many ways, the most enduring memories of the history of "us".  The fact that, no matter what I tried, it didn't seem to be either the right thing, or good enough. I eventually realized that was your fault not mine. It wasn't that I couldn't make you happy, it was that you didn't want me to make you happy, and that made all the difference in the world. Figuring that out is a painful memory.

That particular brilliant insight was not easy to come by, and it took more than the three wise men or four horsemen to help me to obtain it.  Some considerable thought, and distance both of the physical kind, and the figurative kind were necessary to allow me the sense of depth to make  this decision.  Things begin to look smaller as they fade away into the distance, and as you put more distance between us, you eventually reached your vanishing point. You didn't flee out into the night after some turbulent argument, and leave me staring off the balcony after you. No, your disappearing act was both more subtle and more obvious than that. Some doors, in spite of our best efforts, just aren't made to slam, they just click with what is (when you think about it later) some awful finality.

It is blessed finality that I desperately seek as I pile the last sod of dirt upon your grave, and  as I hammer the fourth date onto the tombstone that bears your name. I seek the finality that will allow me to dust myself down, and not have to reopen this grave anytime soon, or maybe ever. That is clearly yet to be determined, because one day's resolution is sometimes followed by the next day's weakness, and a third day's folly. Finality is as hard to obtain as zen, and it remains a struggle (mostly uphill) that I fear I may have to fight for a long time to come. It makes no sense, nor is it going to anytime soon, but it's just the way the world seems to be working. Time causes as many wounds as it heals, but it is time for me to close that cemetery gate, and face the fact that it might be time for someone else to have the chance to wound me, hopefully they won't, or hopefully that won't as badly as you have, but without me closing, and locking the gate to your grave they won't have the chance, and that is unfair to them.

When they come to write my obituary, if they can be bothered to do so at all, I can only hope (at least for now) your name is not even mentioned in passing. I suppose the timing of the obituary may have something to do with whether it is or not, and truth be told, I'll be dead, and passed caring. I rather suspect you feel the same way, and look back upon this all as a mistake, a rather large one that you rather wished you hadn't made. We may be able to bury each other in mental cemeteries, and whitewash ourselves out of each others history, but full blown erasure is not really possible. Whatever stage upon life's way we reach after this funeral, and I figure you are a stage or two further down the road that I am, there will always exist an us (even after we stop existing). This cemetery may become overgrown from neglect, and the sands of time may wear away the tombstones, but the graves are eternal.

Therefore, I will, with as little regret as I can manage, lock that gate, and turn away to face whatever future awaits me. That is yet to be determined, but the good news (if there is any good news) is that as I walk away so hurriedly from this relationship graveyard, I am not exactly alone. However, that is a story for another day. A day that you won't be around to celebrate. I am in many ways, truly sorry, however I am also, in many ways, blessedly relieved to have reach this stage upon my life's way.  Bon chance.  




Tuesday, May 10, 2016


The sharp eyed among you will notice an addition to this blog. The few of you that still read it might care enough to wonder what the story is behind the addition. This simple little post will be an attempt to explain that addition, and to keep me from falling asleep at work. Dual purpose blog posts are the best, and if that line contains some foreshadowing, all the better.

The addition to this blog is a collaborator, not in the Vichy French sense, but a fellow human (I made sure to check), that will (hopefully) from time to time lend their writing skills (of which I am also hopeful) to this blog. Christ knows it could use some real skill. My collaborator (if it is another person, and not just my literary personality fragmenting), is a bit of a grammar Nazi, but not the Himmler kind, more of the Speer type, i.e. the "Nazi who said he was sorry." They correct my numerous mistakes, but do so without the regular disdain, and overbearing conceit practiced by the majority of their ilk.  Content is sometimes rather important, and this particular grammar Nazi (again if it is another person at all) understand that, and is willing to take on some editorial duties around this dump as well. More power to them, if they can track down all my typos, and other sins against the English (and sometimes other) language, and repair them enough to make them coherent, then maybe they deserve the Iron Cross, or whatever medal grammar Nazis hand out to each other in their overdeveloped sense of smugness.

They (if there is a they) have chosen the nom de plume of Ladislaw, taken from the novel Middlemarch by George Eliot. The classically  educated among us (of which I used to count myself) know exactly what that means. At least I didn't make the mistake of confusing George Eliot with T.S. Eliot. But every once in a while, being clueless is not as terrifying as it seems. Sometimes ignorance is actually bliss. Knowledge is power, but usually in the obtaining of knowledge you have to give a little knowledge in return, and that can be much scarier than is strictly good for one's heart. A little mystery is good for the soul, and if you don't believe that then ask your mechanic a whole lot of annoying questions the next time you take your car in for service, and if they answer you, see how you feel having certain mysteries explained to you. Mysteries come in all shapes, and sizes and sometimes even in boxes. Whether you choose to unwrap them, or wait for them to be revealed is your personal choice. If Ladislaw ever decides to reveal their (possibly separate identity) that is their decision, and one you (and possibly me) will just have to accept.

The hope of this collaboration is more content, actual readable content would be a bonus, but we are not going to get our collective hopes up too high. After all, as of yet Ladislaw has yet to contribute anything (or maybe they have).  Being the prole type, and rather egalitarian we have decided that this collaboration does not have a leader. It is a more partnership based upon a mutual disdain for the rest of the human race, and a firm belief that if no one is in charge then the blame can be firmly placed on each other equally. Teamwork (that bane of modern society) is essential, when things start to go wrong, it allows you to blame someone else.

Introductions, like acceptance speeches, should be short, and this one has probably wandered into the overlong category. Therefore, I will merely end it with a hale, and hearty welcome to Ladislaw the new person to blame when shit goes horribly wrong.