Historic Moments

So, I want to talk about the moments in your life that change everything.  A huge part of any narrative are defining moments.  Those points where the character, through action, dialogue or event, faces a crucial decision, change in view, or moment of enlightenment.  Like all art, that’s a reflection of life.  Those perfect little moments that you remember forever.  As a person who generally thinks of his entire life through song lyrics (there has to be a name for that psychiatric disorder in the DSM-IV), I will use songs to highlight these moments.

I find it so fitting that the Greek word for revelation, “apocalypse,” is now the word for the end of the world.

The earliest “revelation” that I can remember in my life that altered the way I looked at a part of my life was as a kid.  My mom and I were looking through old family photo albums.  I stopped her on a photo she didn’t know was even in the book, thinking that it had been carefully edited to prevent just such an occurrence, and asked who the man in the photo was.  She asked why I wanted to know and I told her “That’s the bad man in my dreams.”  It was my father.  During my childhood, I suffered from night terrors.

The dream was always the same.  My mom and I were driving up a mountain road at night in our old Ford pickup truck.  We would have to pull over for some reason, maybe a flat tire.  At some point, I would realize there were other people we knew with us like my grandfather or someone else.  While everyone was busy fixing the car or just talking, a monster would sneak up on me.  It was kind of a Frankenstein/undead creature that looked basically human and it would start eating me alive.  I would be screaming and screaming for help, but it was like no one could hear me or no one cared.  And I would wake up screaming like that as it tore me apart.  As the years went by the monster lost its face and eventually just became a darkness.  Nowadays it’s usually like a mountain lion or dogs something, and I don’t have it very often at all.

I eventually came to realize that regardless of the shape the monster took, it was my father.  For a lot of kids, far too many, the monsters aren’t under the bed or in the closet.  One of the hardest parts of it is that it makes you feel set apart from other people.  It’s a seemingly incurable isolation.  IMO, the song Broom People by the Mountain Goats captures that feeling perfectly.

“36 Hudson in the garage,
all sorts of junk in the unattached spare room.
Dishes in the kitchen sink,
new straw for the old broom,
friends who don’t have a clue,
well-meaning teachers…”

In a society that demands uniformity, it segregates you from what’s “normal.”   The entire Sunset Tree album by the Mountain Goats is the story of John Darnielle’s childhood and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather.  Listening to it for the first time, it was one of the most powerful and effecting albums I had ever encountered, though his own experiences were far, far, far worse than mine.

Flash forward a few years.  I’m a spoiled only child living in the idyllic paradise of the 90’s (aren’t all the decades of our childhood?).  I’m strange and introverted, socially awkward and self-obsessed, smarter than any of the kids my age and surprisingly manipulative.  Machiavellian really.  I wasn’t a bad kid per se, though the way I see it all children start out inherently evil and learn how to be good.  My best friends were my older cousins, brother and sister.  One day I told the brother that I was much better friends with his sister and made a huge deal out of it, saying I didn’t need him as a friend.

Why did I do this?  I have no damn idea.  Feeding my ego?  Sure.  Exercising power through hurting someone else?  Most definitely.  But no idea what served as the catalyst.  Afterwards, my mom pointed out what a mean thing that was to do and it was the first time I clearly remember feeling like an asshole.  Not the last time in my life, mind you, LOL.  That is the human default after all.  For people, acts of fear and hate are the equivalent of slipping into neutral.  However, that realization of what I had done and the guilt crystallized in me.  It would be many years before I would have to confront my ego further than that, but this at least spurred me on to try to fence in that smug sense of self-importance a bit.  Ego forms a comfortable wall between low self-esteem and reality, and the deeper that well of fear runs, the stronger that wall has to be to hold it all back.

I Fought the Angels by the Delgados is the best example of those moments where you say something horrible and hurt someone you love, especially those times when the second the words are out of your mouth (or even while you’re saying them) you know immediately that you’ve gone too far and done something awful to someone you love.

“Knew at the time that they came out
Wish I could have them disallowed
Everybody knows that
We say things we do not mean
Everybody knows that
We say things that are unclean.”

Stepping further down the road of my life, I was working my dead end job in medical transcription and killing time.  I had settled into a well-worn rut in my life.  Cozy, safe and imprisoning.  One day, waiting for work to come in, I Googled my father’s side of the family, curious how their lives are going.  I came across the obituary for my paternal grandfather.  I never knew him, so it was at worst vaguely odd knowing he was dead.  I read more of his obit and it mentioned that his wife had died.  So both my grandparents are dead.  I only knew her as the woman who sent me little plastic Jesuses and religious cards and worried for my eternal soul in the hands of Catholics, but nothing more.  So I kept reading.  It mentioned that he was survived by his daughter and her husband and their child, but that his son, my father, had died.

I stared at that line.  My father was dead.  The monster in the dark died.  I couldn’t quite fathom it.  To me, he wasn’t a guy.  He wasn’t some living, breathing person that could get sick and pass away.  He was the dark itself.  Now I’m reading that fear got lung cancer, ended up being admitted to a hospital and died 2 weeks later.  I read more and it turns out he had re-married (a woman with my mom’s name bizarrely enough) and had another son.  At least he had the tact to not name him after me too and completely recreate his old family.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if he hadn’t pulled a Cotton Hill.  In King of the Hill, Hank’s father Cotton re-marries a much younger woman and then names his new son “Good Hank.”

I proceeded to leave what has to be the weirdest message from an employee my boss ever received.  A weird rambling message about how my father and grandparents were dead, and that they had been dead for months/years now and at different times and I didn’t know them, but I couldn’t work.  Not sure she understood it.  I know I didn’t understand it.  My first thought when I read that he was gone was “It’s finally too late, dad.”  I never expected him to change or recover and there’s certainly no way to make up for what he had done, but there was a strange finality to it.  The certainty that it was now officially impossible for him to redeem himself.  Or maybe he did, and it just didn’t include me.

People have asked if I’ll contact my half-brother, and my answer is always a resolute”NO!”  I see there as being two possibilities:  Considering that he spent years with my father, whereas my mom got me out of there immediately, he was left alone in the dark with that monster like I was, but without end.  There was no light at the end of that tunnel.  He didn’t get to wake up screaming from that nightmare, he just stayed in it.  In which case, he could very well have become the monster that my father became at the hands of his uncle.  Monsters begetting monsters down the line.  I don’t want to see that.

Then there’s the possibility that my father “recovered.”  Maybe he got on meds, got off booze and cigarettes, sought out help and stabilized mentally.  Maybe my half-brother grew up with a real dad.  In which case, our two parallel worlds really aren’t compatible.  I don’t want to have to hear good memories about my father.  I can’t sit around and listen to pleasant domestic stories about the creature that hunted me night after night in my dreams.

And what would my version of events be like for him?  If he has good memories, I want to leave him with them.  I don’t believe it, even the moment I first thought it, but maybe my father realized that with me he had a debt he could never pay back.  He can’t remove those scars that I live with.  So maybe he did the only thing he could and paid it forward.  A childhood given for a childhood taken.  Again, I don’t believe it, but it’s a good story isn’t it?  Catharsis.  Redemption.  Salvation.  Powerful themes that string our hopes together.

Once again, Mountain Goats and the Sunset Tree album are on my thoughts for this one.  Pale Green Things sums up, so beautifully, that haunting knowledge and insight.  When you know a truly bad person as intimately as they know themselves, and you understand them, without condoning them or forgiving them or even liking them.  Sometimes you know someone so deeply because you love them, and other times you know someone because you hate them.

“My sister called at 3 AM
Just last December
She told me how you’d died at last,
At last…”

Not long after that, I fell quite ill.  Crohn’s disease or IBS or something.  No one really knows and I’m too poor/uninsured to find out, but all that’s beside the point.  I had been sick for months.  Nauseous and going to the bathroom a dozen or more times a day.  Constantly felt like I had a live animal in my gut eating its way out.  One day I couldn’t stand up anymore.  I was too weak and I couldn’t eat or keep any fluids in me.  My mom rushed me to the ER and it took 4 bags of IV fluids to replenish me.  They told me afterward that if I hadn’t come in, if I had waited a few more hours, I would have died.  And that’s still beside the point.

The reason I bring up this experience is that while I laid on that hospital bed, IV in my arm, Zofran giving me a temporary reprieve from the nausea, but knowing that this was all just a brief respite, I had the beginning of another revelation.  It would take two more years before it culminated and I came to a real conclusion about it, and even now it’s something that continues to serve as a guidepost to my maturation and evolution.  Funny how blindly we stumble through our lives, isn’t it?  Looking up at that hospital ceiling, I thought (rather melodramatically) “I’m going to die alone.  I never even got to love anyone and no one ever loved me.”  The universe had cheated me.  I had spent my whole adult life being responsible, taking care of my mom after her stroke, and being forced to maintain my distance from others because I was different.  I was angry and bitter.

As they say, people grow old, but they never grow up.  It did perhaps start me on the right path though.  A trail I’m still struggling to follow.  I stayed alone for many reasons.  I’m not really a mans man type.  I’m a nerd.  I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek and I have no clue which sports teams belong to which cities or, in many cases, what game they are even playing.  I can build a computer, but as far as I’m concerned cars run on magic.  So women wouldn’t be interested in me.  And they wouldn’t be attracted to me because I’m out of shape.  I don’t have the toned six pack abs and broad shoulders that’s required of my gender to be worthy of love.

I also couldn’t date because what happens if I tricked some woman into loving me and then I developed schizophrenia like my father?  I had a plan from when I was a kid that if I ever went the path my father did, that I would kill myself rather than take the chance of hurting someone.  I was too poor, too dumb, too this, too that, and on and on it went.  A million reasons stacked on top of each other as to why I didn’t deserve love, why I couldn’t feel love, why I couldn’t keep love if I found it and why I had an obligation to protect others by avoiding intimacy in all forms.

Some may see a pattern developing in these thoughts.  As I said, I wouldn’t fully conceptualize it until much later, but I wasn’t strictly alone because of my failings and weaknesses.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Chris Hemsworth, so women aren’t forming a queue outside my door, but that’s not the only reason why I was alone.  I was alone because I made sure at every turn to prevent it.  I was afraid.  So I built a wall out of cowardice and hid behind it.  It’s an easy place to exist, but a hard place to live.  Nowhere Man by the Beatles I think covers it well.

“He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.”

Two years later, as has been mentioned here before, I met my first love.  I didn’t try to fall in love with her.  She was one of many harmless crushes I fostered to make it seem like I was giving things a chance, then do nothing, let it fall apart and blame the universe for screwing me over.  Then she fell in love with me.  “Wisdom is fickle and chance is God’s retort.”  My plans of self-isolation were laid to ruin.  I played it safe; she declared her love.  I asked to be her friend; she asked me to be more.  I knew I wasn’t what women found attractive; she had a very different opinion.  She told me all the different ways that I was a good man and all the things that made her love me.  It didn’t fit the script I had written and I couldn’t care less.  I was head over heels and the cowardice wall collapsed in days.  Love conquered the Nowhere Man.

One of the songs on a mix CD I made for her (she even loved my dorky-antequated-mix-CD-creating side) had the song Slow Show by the National on it.  It was a song special to me when I thought of her.

“I wanna hurry home to you
Put on a slow, dumb show for you and crack you up
So you can put a blue ribbon on my brain
God, I’m very, very frightened, I’ll overdo it

You know I dreamed about you
For twenty-nine years before I saw you
You know I dreamed about you
I missed you for, for twenty-nine years.”

I didn’t just fall in love with a woman though.  I also had two wonderful daughters come into my life.  There’s no other human relationship where you can have a friend that throws up on you, depends completely on you for survival, contributes almost no effort or resources to your life, emits an ear damaging shriek multiple times a day, and makes you watch the same movies again and again and again and again until you feel you have a strong legal case against the Disney corporation for making it, and you’d still take a bullet for them without a moment of hesitation.  They weren’t mine by blood, but they were part of my heart and soul, and even in their absence I feel the tug on my soul.  With the woman I loved and the kids I adored, I had a family.  I had something more precious than anything I had ever had in my life.  A sense of overriding purpose in the world that made every hardship bearable, and every past heart break and defeat worth it.

Turns out the single best compliment I ever received was from a 4-year-old.  This amazing little girl had been tortured by her father in ways so horrific that I’m still haunted by it.  Yet she survived and endured.  Where her older sister was more dissociative, choosing to pretend it was all fine, she had the more appropriate response:  She was pissed.  Life dealt her a raw deal and she was angry.  The universe owed her one.  She had so much attitude for someone so young, and I respected it.  It already meant the world to me that I was the first man she felt comfortable around after getting away from her dad.  I think her and her sister knew that their original stay at my house (long before their mom and I fell for each other) was no simple sleepover, but that they were hiding and that we were taking shifts staying up at night to protect them, though we made it all about fun movies and games to keep them distracted.  I was the only male in her life that she let pick her up.

Her feeling safe around me was, in itself, an incredible compliment.  The same from her sister.  For that matter, their mother’s trust in me was another source of pride for me.  The three most important people in my life trusted me.  Trust is sadly rare.  I think that on some level they probably knew that not just would I never hurt them, but I would protect them from anything at any cost.

So one day, I went into her room to deliver the chopped up hot dog she wanted (cut vertically and then horizontally, because the other way around renders it inedible apparently, haha) and I put the Little Mermaid on the TV I got her and her sister (not just for their entertainment, but so their mom and I could actually get an hour here and there to ourselves) and this forever so matter-of-fact, calls-’em-like-she-sees-’em little girl looks up at me and says “[my name], you’re a good man.”  I had to laugh.  She said it so seriously.  I told her she was a great kid, gave her a thumbs up and left.

And ever since then, I think of that moment.  It’s not just a compliment.  And it’s not just a sign of trust.  It became something more.  To me, now, it’s a promise.  None of us are good all the time.  We’re all jerks now and then, and we all mess up, big time, repeatedly through our lives, but that perfect little 5 word statement of hers makes me want to be a better man for the rest of my life.  The thought of ever disappointing her, even now that she’s not part of my life anymore, is appalling.  So I have to try every day to live up to it.  No easy task for an animal so flawed as a human.

I always think of the song I Want To Protect You by the Eels.  One thing I’ve always loved about this song is that it’s all purpose.  It can fit as a love song to a girlfriend or song of protective love to a daughter.  I’ve always seen it as the latter, probably because I’ve never seen grown women as needing protection beyond the general idea that everyone should protect everyone.  It doesn’t specify what type of love, only that desire to protect the people you care about, and that knowledge you get about how important that person is, even when the rest of the world doesn’t/can’t know it.  Back then, there were three people I had to protect.

“Not many understand
But I’m your biggest fan
The savage fools cannot appreciate
The miracle of you
How could it be true
You’re everything good in the world.”

It wasn’t happily ever after (nothing ever is) though.  The woman I loved moved on and with her went the place I called “home.”  Not a house, not a physical place, but home in the truest sense of the word.  It’s hard bouncing back from that kind of disappointment.  What started as Slow Show and I Want to Protect You became the Rolling Stones 19th Nervous Breakdown LOL.  “On our first trip I tried so hard to rearrange your mind.
But after a while I realized you were disarranging mine.”

So it goes…

The question is what revelation comes next?  Impossible to know, but I’m working on a few.  Some of them will take to seed and grow brand new ideals in me, and others won’t.  We’re such strange hives of personality.  One revelation, more deeply personal and yet paradoxically near universal:  I want love.  Being single is fun.  It doesn’t stop you from being happy.  It doesn’t make your life less interesting, worthwhile or complete than being with someone else.  But for me, just me at least, I loved being in love and I realized that’s who I am.  I gave up on it because the revelations I had in my youth told me that I couldn’t have it or I didn’t deserve it.  One day hoping hurt so much I stopped.  We can’t choose to stop feeling fear, but at some point we have to ask ourselves if we can keep living in that fear.  I can’t.  I never could and I know that now.  Not just romantic love.  All love.  Now I just need to find the strength to overcome that fear each day I’m alive.  Whew…

I’ll probably screw it up, but that’s life and I won’t surrender.  Loving others and loving yourself is like Playing With Fire.  Yes, I love what is basically a religious song, haha!  The lyrics may not mean the same thing to the writer as they do to me, but that’s the nature of art.

“Rolling river of truth, can you spare me a sip?
The holy fountain of youth has been reduced to a drip
I’ve got this burning belief in salvation in love
This notion may be naive, but when push comes to shove
I will till this ground.”  -Playing With Fire by Brandon Flowers.

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Racism, It’s All Fun and Games Until It’s Your Own Race

An unrelated commentary:  I just want to point out that only days after I post my satirical article about how white people are more dangerous than Syrian refugees, there was a white terror attack and now everyone’s on the hatin’ on whitey bandwagon.  You’re welcome, internet, LOL.  I shared it with a friend and they thought it was unfair to Christianity.  I had to explain the joke.  I purposefully wrote it in the same manner as the articles that I found against Muslims.  Hate always looks stupid when it’s held up to the light.  That’s the point of satire.  I can write that same article about any race, religion, nationality, etc.

“There’s a chilling absolution that we’re given from our birth
A powerful delusion and a plague upon the earth
But nothing scares me more
Than the stranger at my door
Who I fail to give shelter, time, and worth” -The Stranger At My Door by Brandi Carlile

Though perhaps the best quote for refugees is Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” which sits beneath the Statue of Liberty herself, though most Americans only know the two lines of it:

“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Every generation of Americans wants to close the door on the next.  We simply can’t do that.  This is the very heart and soul of America that we’re fighting for.  We all stand here today because of the Mother of Exiles.  Well… except the Native Americans… they were kind of here before.  Though, admittedly, they hadn’t properly utilized the land.  Not a Wal-mart in sight.

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The White Menace

As the Syrian refugee debate rages across the internets and the airwaves, and suggestions are made about what to do about it, generally ranging from not accepting refugees to putting anyone suspicious (e.g. Muslim) in camps, which has no negative historical consequences – trust me, I’m a history buff, and I’ve never heard of anything bad happening in a camp [citation needed].  However, in this era of pants crapping terror and knee jerk ethnophobia, I wanted to draw people’s attention to a far greater threat to our beloved nation.  Now, I just want to make it clear that I’m not encouraging racism or hatred, I just love ‘Murica too much to see it defiled and destroyed by a threat from within.  I’m talking about white people, of course.  And their religion and culture.  Also, anyone who disagrees with me is automatically a racist and unAmerican.

A History of Violence

White people first arrived in our country in the 1500’s, supposedly to escape religious persecution, forced servitude and factional brutality in their home countries, mostly in Europe, a continent known for its lack of hygiene (see Black Death), constant tribal warfare (see European history, all of it), and religious fanaticism (see Hundred Years War, Inquisition, Reformation, Catholic Church history, the Bible, etc.)  After failing miserably to grow food, the indigenous peoples assisted by teaching them how to grow food and presumably how to chew their food, and wipe their own asses.  They repaid this hospitality by murdering them and spreading their diseases across the continent.

These filthy, disease-ridden, rat-bitten, homeless refugees expanded west until they reached the ocean on the other side, stealing land from other Europeans, from the natives, and even from each other.  They forced anyone who didn’t believe in their God to convert or die.  They created a human trafficking ring:  Kidnapping tens of thousands to use for labor and sex, which according to their own religious text, a book they call “the Bible,” is perfectly right and moral.  “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” -Ephesians 6:5 and “When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished.  If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.” -Exodus 21:20-21.

After 350 years of slavery, they finally ended the practice, though it would be another 100 years before those freed slaves would have the right to live and work among their former masters.

They also proved to be natural thieves and criminals.  First they stole the land and all its resources, mining said lands so much that whole  forests and mountains disappeared, and they’ve sucked rivers and lakes dry – thirsty, big-lipped bastards. They stole democracy and architecture from the Greeks.  They stole mathematics from the Arabs.  They stole their language from the English.  They stole religion from the Jews.  They stole their holidays from the Pagans.  They stole people.

They Stole Our Jerbs!

So, with the Caucasian’s genetic predilection for thievery, it should come as no surprise that they’ve come here to take our jobs!  Did you know that the vast majority of high paying jobs in this country as well as nearly all the millionaires and billionaires are white males?  They didn’t just take our jobs.  They took the BEST jobs!  99.56% of all U.S. Presidents have been white males and 100% of all vice-presidents.  They’re taking the jobs that we all want.  Lazy, paper pushing, money grubbing, ass-kissers who refuse to do any hard labor and agricultural field work.

Creeping Bible Law

Even as they move into our neighborhoods and take our jobs, they also want to impose their oppressive, sexist and violent religious rites and practices on us by instituting Bible Law in our communities.  Did you know that according to the Bible anyone who doesn’t convert must be smoted… smited… smitten… killed?  Well, it totally does.  There’s way too many passages to mention, so here’s a list.  So unless we worship exactly as they do, they are required to kill us.  And we’re letting these people into our country?  Around our children?  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like the kind of people we want in America.

Our legal structure has already been heavily influenced by their religion, including the illegalization of prostitution and old laws against homosexuality, abortion, adultery, divorce, premarital sex, etc. that were repealed.

They also want to indoctrinate your children in schools.  Prayer in school (and you know they ain’t teaching meditation or having those kids bow toward Mecca), abstinence only sex ed (despite incontrovertible proof that it doesn’t work), creationism (despite the fact that specific references to the world being created by Allah, Satan or the Flying Spaghetti Monster have all been roundly rejected by school boards and local politicians), and more.

They even ritualistically mutilate babies.  Originally popularized by Christian fitness guru and cult leader John Harvey Kellogg – whose brother learned that if you leave bread dough out long enough Corn Flakes happens – when he advocated circumcision as a means to prevent masturbation in boys because of the Bible’s stance against it and the significantly less popular procedure (these days at least) of administering carbolic acid to the clitoris for girls.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the kind of people who ritualistic chop up genitals living with us.

Most Nazis Were White All Whites Are Nazis

If we take the tried and true method of determining guilt for a thing by what color the skin of the perpetrator was and then interpolating that data to assume that everyone of that same pigment are guilty of the same crime, we must assume that all white people are Nazis.

The Unibomber?  White.  Timothy McVeigh?  White.  Jeffrey Dahmer?  100% cracker.  Ted Bundy?  Total honky.  Actually, just about all the serial killers.  Waco, Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, the KKK, the Westboro Baptists, the Confederacy, etc.?  Chalkies one and all.

And all those guns!  Whites are twice as likely to own a gun than blacks or Hispanics, though 55% of all gun homicide victims are black (only 13% of population) while whites were 65% of the population and only 25% of gun homicide victims.  These pasty, vicious thugs are wandering our streets, armed and trigger happy, in their SUVs and pickup trucks listening to their savage music from white “artists” like Ted Nugent and Merle Haggard that preach hate and misogyny.  They say they need all these guns for self-defense, but can we really trust them with such an arsenal on our own soil when they’ve proven themselves such a threat to everyone else?

They’re Jerks

Now they want to deny the Syrian refugees entrance into America.  I’m not saying that white people are secretly supporting ISIS and helping them hunt down and murder their opposition, but it looks awfully suspicious.  I’m not sure there’s any room in a free and safe America for white people.  I know I don’t feel safe with them around.  I think we’d all sleep a lot easier knowing these cruel savages, potential ISIS agents and dirty traitors are all safely locked away in camps, not just for our protection, but their own.

However, I have another option.  Since these people would clearly prefer to live in the Middle East where they can live in a racially segregated, fanatically nationalistic and theocratic nation, I say that we start an exchange program.  For every American that forgets what this country was about, we can trade them for a refugee.  If you’re willing to condemn a person to live and die with ISIS, then maybe you should walk a mile in their shoes, not that you’ll be allowed to have a luxury like shoes.

Some of you may be saying “FH, aren’t you white?”  Well… shit…

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Remembering a friend

Been a while again, but I had to get this out of my brain.  I wrote this for Domestic Violence Awareness month (which is October for those who don’t know.)  A friend of mine got me involved in raising awareness on this subject and it had me thinking a lot about the people I’ve known who were victims of abuse, either as children or adults or both.  So I wrote this about a person who was, is and always will be dear to me, even though we parted ways in life, and I hope that one day she finds the peace and happiness she so desperately deserves.

I was inspired by the Leonard Cohen quote: “Children show scars like medals. Lovers use them as secrets to reveal. A scar is what happens when the word is made flesh.”


The first night we spent together, you apologized to me for having so many marks on your body, still having no idea how much I loved you and how real affection rendered another’s imperfections meaningless; and that no force of reality could shift such a perception.

One by one, I learned of each event in your life by the lines and craters on your body and your spirit.  The two most recent left by the surgeries that brought us together.  The first a reminder of our friendship:  Peppermint patties surreptitiously stolen past the nurses to your room; a lone set of flowers and a single get-well-card next to your bed; a name not spoken and always in our thoughts from a betrayal too great and too raw to expose to the light.  The second a reminder of something more:  Brave confessions and fearful waiting, kind words and fleeting embraces.

Ink hearts and roses covering up the name Chris.  Another man with my name from long ago, before you knew that your life could hold meaning to other people; re-tracing the course that your mother took, drugs and pain, abuse and neglect.  Two smaller lines on the edges of the tattoo that marked the days after you brought your youngest and your last into this world, and nearly lost your own life in exchange.  Enough pain for anyone, but not nearly the sum total you received.

A pale band on your finger, standing out on your sun-kissed skin, where a promise used to be.  A promise made by a monster who wore his humanity as a mask and discarded it just as easily.  He didn’t hurt your body, not like the man whose name you covered up.  He hurt you deeper than anyone else ever had and I could see the scars behind your eyes at the horror he inflicted on your babies, to the living pieces of your heart that the two of you had brought into this world together, and that alone he had tried to shatter.

The worst of your scars were the ones that no one else saw but me.  The ones that covered your heart, ones that put an uncrossable gulf between you and everyone who cared about you.  It left you alone with memories too terrible to share.  The people who were supposed to protect you, to safeguard you, to love you, were the first to betray you.  They tormented, terrorized and used you, but even worse, they didn’t even acknowledge you.  Your tears went unnoticed, left to dry on your cheeks; your dreams never nurtured, no guidance or wisdom ever shared; your pain never soothed by a consoling touch or a kind word; and your existence never even regarded, much less understood.

You apologized for your scars that night.  You confessed your fears that I would never be able to love you because of your pain or that I wouldn’t be able to find beauty in you.  It was you who were owed an apology by the people who would never feel guilt for what they had taken from you.  Your fears were unjustified; I loved you all the more because of your strength and your courage to survive all that you had.  Your insecurities were false; your beauty and your grace mesmerized me.

But our love couldn’t survive those scars.  Not because, as you had feared that first night, that I couldn’t love you, but that they kept you from loving me.  You said the words you were supposed to say and copied the things you had seen in movies and read in books.  You tried your best to return my feelings, and cried in my arms when you didn’t know how.  You warned me I should leave you because caring about you would hurt me.  When I refused to go, you hurt me as you predicted, and one day I couldn’t take anymore.

Do you have a new scar?  One, like so many others, that no one can see, that you can’t share, where we broke apart?  A counterpoint to the one you left on me?  Or was there no more room for another?  Time has hardened and numbed the void where I held another’s heart to mine, but a scar remains to share with others.  Proof of the woman I knew back then, who taught me about love with no knowledge of it for herself; proof of the woman I loved with everything I had.

She told me once that I had saved her and I don’t know if that was true, but I know that she saved me and I have the scar as proof.


There were times when the things she said and did made me angry at her.  When someone breaks your heart, it’s hard not to hate them, even when it wasn’t intentional.  Then I think about the day she had a reaction to some antibiotics and I was holding her hair back as she threw up in the toilet.  I was rubbing her back as she leaned over the toilet and she looked back at me.  She looked so miserable, but she also looked so angry.  She asked me how I could touch her when she was so disgusting (she also knew I had emetophobia, so for me being next to someone vomiting is like being buried in tarantulas).  I told her that she wasn’t disgusting, she was just sick and that I was there for her.  Then I said without thinking “Didn’t your mom ever rub your back and hold you when you were sick?”  Her mom was hooked on crystal meth when she was a kid, so as soon as I said it, I knew it was a stupid thing to ask.  From then on, whenever I was tempted to hate her for how she broke my heart, I would think about that little 8-year-old girl who came out to her mom with vomit on the sleeve of her pajamas and asked for nothing more than the most basic compassion she was entitled to, and her mom telling her that she was disgusting and to go back to her room until she was better.

Like most living things, love can’t grow in the dark.

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Battle of the Sexes

So, it’s been about a year and a half since I wrote a post for this blog.  I decided recently to come back to it.  It’s a nice place to get my thoughts onto paper (metaphorically speaking) and out of my brain.  After all, the modern equivalent of a private diary is a public blog, right?  While a strong argument can be made for that being a symptom of a culture increasingly more self-obsessed, egotistical and grandiose, I like to see it as a shift away from generations of repression, guilt and shame to one of expression and acceptance.  Admittedly, there’s no proof that’s where we’re headed, but evolution is an ugly process.  An antelope didn’t wake up one day as a giraffe.  On the other hand, pandas probably used to be more like real bears and now they’re a species who can only eat one plant in the whole world and have given up on reproduction.  So, we’ll have to see in future ages of our civilization how this all turns out.

Full disclosure:  I have either a common cold variant with bronchitis or the Black Death.  Not sure yet.  So if my writing style isn’t up to its usual level (whatever that may be) it’s because the cold hands of the reaper are clutching my neck and slowly dragging me kicking and screaming (well, gurgling) into that dark night.

So, today I want to talk about an intractable war zone.  A place of nightmares where people hurt each other in any way possible just for the sense of power that comes with extinguishing another human being’s sense of pride in themselves.  A place full of those lost sheep called humans trying to find their way to happiness through a constant stream of horror and pain.  Racism and sexism abound.  Emotional abuse to sex crimes.  A war with a staggering cost in basic human dignity.  I’m talking about OKCupid!

And all online dating services.  And real life dating.  And any interaction between people who are looking for a companion in this world and those whose primary goal in life is suffering, either in themselves or others, or a distinction so blurry there’s really no way to know anymore.  Dating is what separates us from the animals who have a more they-didn’t-run-fast-enough method to procreation.  It’s just the romantic subsection of the social contract that says that it is everyone’s right to choose their own companionship (platonic, familial – once old enough to leave home, romantic, sexual, etc.) by their own standards.  Simple, right?

In the time I’ve been gone, I fell madly in love with a sweet, affectionate and all around wonderful woman.  Then I realized she was actually cold, distant and incapable of real commitment and dumped her.  Then we got back together because our love was an unstoppable force that could heal all wounds and break through all barriers in its way.  Then she left me when a better financial situation came along.  Then she wanted to be friends again.  Then I dumped her again because she couldn’t even be nice to me as a friend and I was still in love with her, so being friends was more painful than cutting her out of my life entirely.  Then I took her back again because she said some really nice things and her dreams of wealth and success away from me had been dashed on the merciless rocks of reality.  I mean, really, what’s self-respect worth in comparison to compliments?  Not much for me apparently.

So, we finally broke up completely.  For good this time.  I swear.  If you’re reading this, please come back to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  *long raking sobs*  But I digress, I’m totally over her.  Seinfeld once said that breakups were like tipping over a vending machine.  You don’t get it on the first push, you have to rock it back and forth a few times before it finally falls over.  Haha, as the first time I’ve ever been in love, I was not prepared for it.

But I decided to take her last piece of advice from breakup #2.  She said “You need to find some cute, sweet, loving woman who would treat you better than I did.”  Wow, that rings in my head as much as it did then.  I was still trying to sugar coat everything with her, even after we broke up and she was still living in my house because she had no where to go, so I gave some generic “Don’t say that, you were awesome, champ,” kind of statement that was so devoid of any substance that it was actually more insulting even though I had wanted so bad to cheer her up.

The honest truth:  I still love her.  I’m not in love with her anymore though.  She stabbed our trust in the back so many times that no matter how hard I tried in the third reincarnation of our love, I couldn’t manage to rekindle that flame.  Also, I don’t mean to paint a picture of her being the malign entity bent on the destruction of our love and I as a saint.  I did plenty to mess up the relationship, especially my constant “If I pretend this is all fine with me, the problems will go away” attitude.  She has a million great qualities and I still have faith that in time her heart will heal and she will find that person that she can truly be herself with.

She never meant to hurt me and she was going through a rough time in her life, so she had her reasons.  That being said our love was like a faulty heater.  Even if you like the warmth it gives off and even if you know it doesn’t mean to keep setting fire to your home, there’s only so many unexpected fires you can make excuses for before you realize it’s the wrong heater or the wrong home or you bring out the worst in it or this metaphor just starts dissolving even before it’s out of the gate.

As with all things in my life, Andrew Bird summarized it for me:

“I had nothing to say on Christmas day when you threw all your clothes in the snow.
When you burnt your hair and you knocked over chairs, I just tried to stay out of your way.
But when you fell asleep with blood on your teeth, I got in my car and drove away.”   –So Much Wine, Merry Christmas by Andrew Bird (written by Rennie and Brett Sparks of the Handsome Family)

The “Fell asleep with blood on your teeth” line is the best poetic metaphor ever, in my opinion, for when someone says something truly awful to you that just breaks your heart and they don’t even notice.

Oh, and Bob Dylan:

“I tried you twice, you can’t be nice
I’m gonna have to put you down for awhile.”  –Huck’s Tune by Bob Dylan

Following the advice of my own heart and my heart’s last caretaker, I’ve set out on the great adventure of dating.  As usual, it turned out my heart was an asshole that just can’t leave things be when giving advice.

Anyone who has participated in online dating knows what I’m talking about.  The basic idea involves putting a picture of yourself on a website that everyone will judge like a slab of meat.  If you’re like me, you can also put together a written profile summarizing everything you are and ever will be to judgmental and occasionally psychopathic strangers, even though it’s been statistically proven to not matter because people have already decided based on your picture whether you’re worth a damn.  If you have the chiseled features of a Greek God given mortal flesh and rogue-ish charm of Ryan Gosling, like myself, that’s not a problem, but if you’re a flabby 5′ 5″ guy with no fashion sense, like my actual self, you’re screwed.

Who found out people only care about pictures on a site designed to create deep emotional connections?  Ironically, it was OKCupid creator Christian Rudder (I love that name, by the way, and I’m praying that his siblings are named Jewish Map, Muslim Compass, Buddhist Signpost, etc.)

Part of the article indicates that in a blind dating experiment, when they revealed everyone’s pictures – after the participants had been engaging in drastically more conversation and agreements to meet – 2200 conversations ended abruptly.  In other words, 2200 people were having fun until they saw who was making them happy.  Moreover, regardless of looks, the matches determined by the site’s algorithm without the hindrance of photo evidence had good real life dates.  In fact, women who went out with guys they rated more handsome had a more negative time than the reverse.  Can’t say I’m surprised.  Not that I haven’t met ridiculously good looking people who weren’t nice too, but my experiences have been far askew from that in 99% of cases.  There’s nothing I loath more than someone whose ridiculously good looking, but also kind, intelligent and successful.  You get to pick two of those at most, people!

Still not convinced online dating is for you?  Did I mention that people are inherently racist too?  Yep, according to Christian Rudder (I can’t stop saying it!) their customer base supports interracial relationships by a margin of 96% to 4%, but rarely if ever consider someone outside their race to date.  Now that opens up a debate all of its own.  Is it racist if you simply don’t want to date a person from another race without actually being against it conceptually?  I mean in a post racism world I guess none of us would think twice about it, but as many people point out it can be more of a cultural thing.  Less in common, more culture shock with each other’s families.  It’s not Thanksgiving until someone has to explain to grandma why people don’t use [insert slur for your significant other’s race here] anymore.

Hell, I got called the N word in the parking lot of a 7-11 when I was like 12 years old and I’m Conan O’Brien white.  I find it kind of surprising that racism still exists.  I mean how many times have I been told by Republicans that there’s no more racism, just reverse racism?  Also, wouldn’t reverse racism be racial acceptance?  Think about it, old dumb white men, think about it.

Interesting anecdote in that story that racial tension decreased and interracial interaction increased the night of Obama’s election, then racism went to an all-time high as his approval plummeted.  So, good going Obama, how dare you disappoint everyone on behalf of your whole race.  Huh… I wonder if judging an entire people by your opinion of an individual could be construed as some kind of bigotry?  Guess we’ll have to study that next.  So if Hillary wins and is unpopular, can we all agree to dial women’s rights back to, at least, the Madmen era?  I mean that’s what the presidency is now, right, a way to objectively judge whole swaths of the population?  I just hope we never have another unpopular white guy in the office.  That would suck for my kind.

So, ignoring the rampant sexism and racism for a moment, if you’re a guy most of your experiences on OKC and online dating sites will be getting ignored, people messaging a couple times and then never talking to you again for completely unclear reasons, or people turning out to be bots/scammers.  There are whole forums full of guys asking why women just stop messaging and never give so much as a “Hey, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’re right for each other.”  If you’re a woman, you’re probably getting a hundred messages a day (most of which constructed of one word or syllable), men threatening to kill you and rape you for giving a simple “Hey, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’re right for each other.”  And for both genders, mountains of lies.  Textual lies.  Photographic lies.  Financial lies.  Philosophical lies.  So, there’s a really good reason why women just stop writing altogether rather than just end it simply.  It can be a little confusing.

As someone who has a thickly layered human brain on top of his primordial animal brain and never considers homicide or assault as a means to get a second date (or anything for that matter), I can see why other men like myself are so confused by this strange non-confrontational method of ending a conversation.  I’ve never NOT told someone I wasn’t going to talk to them again.  Usually wished us both luck.  But, no one on the dating sites has ever threatened to rape me before, so I tend to have a cheerier outlook on these pre-relationship, no investment, pseudo-breakups.  Yet as someone who was repeatedly threatened at my job by people much larger and stronger than myself with varying degrees of bodily harm up to and including death, I also know how frightening it can be.

What do people see when they look at the dating world?  Frigid, demanding women who don’t know what they want?  Sex obsessed, shallow, emotionless men who know what they want and will do anything to get it no matter how amoral?  A world divided by gender?  Seems so.

What do I see when I look at the dating world?  People in pain.  People with scars.  People who desperately want something good to come into their lives even if they don’t know what that is.  That’s something I can relate to.  And when I say “desperate” I’m not referring to the stereotypical sad image of some “loser” trying and failing constantly to get a date.  I mean the yearning that all human beings feel for happiness and companionship in all its forms.  We all want to be loved.  The only shame I see is in pretending otherwise.  Wanting love and being desperate are two distinct things.

I see people who are so sick of being rejected.  Never being spotted.  When I fell in love that was one of the best parts.  Someone had seen me.  I had waited so long and pretty much given up hope in a woman not just looking right past me to the “better” guy standing nearby.  I looked into her eyes and saw the adoration I was feeling for her and it made me feel confident in myself in a way I had never felt before.  Wherever I went, I could feel the comforting tug of that lifeline around my heart.  I knew that somewhere out there was a wonderful person who cared about me.

I see people sick of being alone.  Never getting to intimately share their little victories in life, their dreams, their good luck, their inner musings and secrets with another person.  Never having someone there to pick them up after their defeats, to comfort them from their nightmares, to laugh together at their bad luck, and forgive them for their failings.  Those terrible and perfect moments when your lover tells you something that’s so hard for them to get out that they cry and you couldn’t feel closer to another person without being them.  When they whisper some secret thought in your ear they know you won’t judge them for.  When two people spend a day in each other’s arms sharing funny stories and laughing.

Life is so hard and it’s that much harder alone.  And it’s so amazing it sucks to not get to share it.  Friendships go a long way, but there’s always that craving for more.

My first real coffee date from OKC ended with the woman apologizing to me that she wasn’t ready to be out with men because of a fairly recent trauma she didn’t talk about.  I felt like maybe she needed someone to sympathize with her, so I told her about my own issues with men growing up and that hard to shake fear, but that you can get over it with time and convinced her to talk to her mother and best friends about it and/or seek counseling, because sometimes in life there’s obstacles we just can’t beat on our own and there’s no shame in it.  I wished her luck and made sure she knew that there were obviously no hard feelings about it.

I’ll be lying though if I didn’t say it did hurt a bit.  Not the rejection.  It was a coffee date after all.  That’s just that little sting of human vanity that reminds you that not every single person in the world will adore you for being so clearly awesome and special.  We all have it, but part of being an adult is floating past it gracefully.  But it dredged things up in regards to the issues she was dealing with.  At the time, it was much closer to my breakup with my girlfriend, who herself had been the victim of extreme abuse as a child, unimaginably worse than my own.  As if I needed one more lesson about how common these issues have been.

A few dates with other people later I started going out with a really intelligent, well-read and artistic single mother.  I really started enjoying her company, but weird little warning flags started coming up.  Strange arguments about stuff that shouldn’t have mattered.  Like she started talking about her favorite charities and causes one night, which were all feminist and eventually I added, thinking I was staying on the same topic of human suffering and attempts to alleviate it, that I had just read this article about a guy who had been rounded up as a child in Africa and forced to be a child soldier on heroin and spent the first half of his life participating in brainwashed mass murderer and now has devoted his life to peace.  She got really pissed and pointed out that women there probably had it worse.  I said I wasn’t trying to make the opposite point or devalue the suffering of anyone else in the world, I just found it a really hopeful article on the same subject and wanted to share.  That was one of numerous bizarre rants.

She even once outright demanded to know if I was a feminist and I answered that I was a humanist.  The only values by which I determine tolerance is behavior and the only values by which I determine acceptance is character, which has nothing to do with genitals or hormones or masculinity/femininity.  I’ve known people of every gender, even a few of the newer ones, and their personality is what determined my like/dislike for them with no strong deviation along gender party lines.   That answer pissed her off.

She only opened up when she was drunk, which is a quality I generally don’t like.  She also wanted me to make all the decisions on everything with no input.  She would switch from really flirty and friendly, to aloof and seemingly disappointed.  Always seemed like she was waiting for something, but her body language was stand-offish so I kept my distance.  Our conversations just faded away.

Later I saw a new version of her Craigslist ad that added onto the original that she was looking for a strong (ouch), dominant (why does someone have to be the boss with two adults?), masculine (ouch) and tall guy (really ouch) and a guy who knows that “No doesn’t always mean no and sometimes a girl just doesn’t know what she wants.”  Whoa.  As soon as I read that I was so glad I dodged that crazy bullet.  Who says that!?  First off, easy way to get yourself killed and leave your kid orphaned in the worst and dumbest possible manner.  Second, like any more of these internet creeps need one more piece of “proof” that their spiraling madness is justified.  It’s like feeding the bears.  Even if you don’t get yourself mauled, you’re setting others up in the future.  Third, I now understood her overcompensation for women’s rights.  She doesn’t respect herself as a woman in the least.  Again, I have to assume that she must have also been abused as a child or at least had terrible role models.

One woman answered a CL post of mine looking for a long-term relationship and we shared an email each and then she invited me to a nearby town to a sleazy motel in the middle of the night in the heroin district of said town.  She ended the email with “P.S.  I don’t think you’re that type of guy, but just in case you are, I’m not going to pay you to do this.”  I’m a male prostitute seeking a long-term relationship?  I poured over my post to figure out if I accidentally used some sort of gigolo code word.  But therein lies the problem, I don’t know what that code would be because of my not being a gigolo in the first place!  Then I realized she was just kidding, so I wrote back “LMAO, that’s hilarious.  You had me going there for a while.  There sure are a lot of creeps out there.”  And I never heard back.  She wasn’t kidding.  I see that now.

As with all wars, we have two sides that feel hurt and they’re turning that pain into anger and that anger into aggression.  Each person has so much that weighs them down out there on the open romantic meat market of human branding corporations known as online dating.  Write a profile that makes you seem fun and mature, wise and down to earth, successful and humble, sexy and reserved, confident and accepting.  Take a picture that captures your inner beauty while showing off your tits (for both men and women, just a matter of fat to muscle ratio) because no one cares.

Check your reproductive organs to determine whether you should be tall, tanned, athletic, confident and rich, or short, feminine, thin, sexy and demure.  But even that won’t work.  You just spent weeks in the gym and starving yourself to look beautiful for your society and it turns out the person you like the most on the site wanted someone big and curvy.  Get eating you damn twig!  Oh wait, now that you’ve put on the weight they succumbed to societal pressure and had plastic surgery and now they can’t be seen with someone who let themselves go.

I ironically did get turned down by a woman who I thought was awesome – we were a 96% match – because I was too skinny.  The only other person I’ve ever seen who even knows who the singer Simon Joyner is.  We had so much in common.  LOL, years of being self-conscious about my love handles and now I’m self-conscious about how skinny I am!  Dating can give you psychological complexes you didn’t think you could get LOL.

One woman I tried to date in real life had major ambivalence because she had met my ex when we were still together and thought she was much prettier.  The honest truth is that I found them equally attractive.  Both might even find that insulting because they couldn’t be more different.  Maybe it’s an Asperger’s thing.  If I like someone’s personality and a romantic interest develops, I so far have never had a problem finding them attractive.  People sometimes think I mean I convince myself they’re attractive.  It’s very organic.  I like the person in the body, so I like the body.

The thing that this woman would probably have been shocked by is that while all her life she had been thinking “I wish I looked like the other women…” my ex was saying the same thing to herself.  She had just about everything this woman wanted and envied, and yet she always saw herself as incomplete and blemished.  The secret is that most women I’ve met, regardless of how others perceive them, are thinking “I wish I looked like the other women…”  There are no “other women.”

Guys don’t show it for the most part because we’re trained early on that confidence slumping over into arrogance is manly, but trust me, anybody who is a guy who admitted it to themselves or a woman who managed to crack that shell on their boyfriend, can say that men are just as insecure.  Insecurity is a basic part of human life.

Insecurity in life can be a positive evolutionary trait.  That sense that the status quo is never quite good enough so we never totally adapt to one environment/way of life and risk easy extinction like those ridiculously adorable and doomed pandas mentioned before.  But in our personal lives it does way more harm than good.  That little voice always making you ask yourself “Am I really good enough for any of this stuff I want/have?”

The part that saddens me the most is that our society is so sick from the collective weight of this individual problem.  These men, likely most of which if not all are victims of abuse themselves, who threaten women with harm to make themselves feel powerful.  Women who keep hurting themselves because it’s the only feeling they’ve ever known.  And these people who are so hurt that they can’t shake off enough of that scar tissue to make a meaningful connection with someone else.

So, again like a war, everyone who fights in it loses.  As soon as you use sex or love or affection or kindness as a tool or a weapon, you’re adrift.  And it’s easy to end up that way.  In my opinion, at least, I think when we carve away all the stereotypes I’ve mentioned here and all that have gone unsaid, when we take out all those dubious and questionable differences, the real reason men and women don’t get along has nothing to do with some in-born hormonal coding, which multicultural studies have shown again and again to be almost entirely learned as opposed to natural, the real reason men and women don’t along is history – personal and social.

If you’re a straight man, whose the biggest candidate to break your heart?  If you’re a straight woman, whose the biggest candidate to have broken your heart?  The older we get, the more fractures our hearts and minds have from these events.  Relationships that went purely terrible from the beginning.  Ones that started off amazing and ended in tragedy.  Ones that dragged on far beyond their expiration date until nothing remained but cold disregard.

As for gay people, I haven’t conducted enough interviews yet to get that side of the story.  I’m trying to imagine if I was gay how I would feel getting turned down by other dudes all the time.  It would be hard for guys to say things like “Turned me down?  Definitely a lesbian.”

They did a few tests over the years where they would call in a group of people of wide backgrounds, and have a psychologist write out a description of each of them just by looking at them.  Then they hand it over to them and ask if it was accurate.  Overwhelmingly people will say that it describes them very well and are happy with it.  But the truth is each of their descriptions was just a copy and they were all exactly the same.  First scientists thought it was just positive points, but it turns out people all have the same fears of their negatives as well.  Even certain past experiences occur in the vast majority of the species.

For instance, almost everyone at some point as a young child had an experience where they killed an animal because of peer pressure and felt extreme guilt over it.  That one doesn’t apply to me though, so there are outliers to that as in all things.  I was reverent of death by the time I was 4 and by 8 I was a French existentialist philosopher and all photographs taken of me turned to black and white.  My best friend once described picturing me as a little kid wearing all black, with a beret and chain smoking while talking about the decay of the material universe.  I’m way less morbid now, but honestly it’s a part of me I like a lot.  My morbid streak always reminds me of that cute little kid lecturing adults about the statistical risks associated with [anything someone was doing while I was present.]

So my advice to all the other fellow romantic pilgrims?  Love everyone.  Not physically you damn pervs, that’s a good way to get a social disease.  Get your dirty minds out of the gutter, I have that gutter reserved for my brain.  But love them for who they are even if that’s not someone you want to know.  Forgive the women who don’t message you back because they don’t want to be threatened again.  Forgive the guys out there who clearly have no clue how to talk to women (that doesn’t include said threatening psychos – the term “people” doesn’t apply to their ilk).

Forgive each other for all the things other men and other women have done to you over your life, because we can’t judge the bulk of us by the actions of the few of us, no matter how heinous those acts may have been.  The guilt should rest with the guilty.

Even forgive yourselves for the scars you can’t shake even as you go out looking again.  You can spend your whole life trying to build or rebuild the perfect person and you’ll always leave this world incomplete and likely missing some really key components.  That’s why we have pets, friends, family and lovers, because together we make a complete organism.  Separately we’re just a single cell in the Petri dish.

A while back there was a comic that shows all too perfectly how I see the world as it exists and how it could be.

It’s easy for us to judge.  We all do it.  And we’ll all keep doing it, but the least we can do is be aware of that flaw and try our best to be kind to our fellow human beings.  Defeating the hordes of truly vile and hateful people requires three things:

1.  We all stand up to it:  Men for women and women for men, straights for gays and gays for straights, and so on.  If you see abuse, speak up.  If you see victimization, stand with them.  If you see someone hurt, help them.  It’s the basic mandate of a decent society.  One of the biggest regrets of my life was witnessing domestic violence as a teenager at a neighbor’s house and doing nothing about it.  I heard the husband beat his wife and children on several occasions, but my family felt that saying something might bring violence against us.  Maybe it would have.  But anyone whose ever been trapped in that dark place with a monster like that knows that the worst part isn’t the monster.  The most heartbreaking part is when you can’t escape on your own and no one comes to help, day after day.  Besides, when did doing nothing ever keep us from getting hurt?

2.  Being good to each other:  If we don’t treat our fellows with the respect, dignity and love that we want for ourselves, then we’ll end up being the thing we’re most afraid of.

3.  Raise our children to know the real difference between men and women:  Which is what exactly?  Yeah, some obvious physical ones, but what are the differences in our psyches?  Do men want sex and women want love?  Do men dominate and women submit?  Is being a man supporting your family?  Is being a woman cleaning up after your family?  Do men take life and women replace it?  Is there any difference between men and women you can think of that you’ve never met someone of the “wrong” gender exhibit?  Perhaps ideas like masculinity and femininity are antiquated and pointless divisions that serve only to divide us and give us another chance to alienate ourselves from one another, not just with the opposite sex, but within our own, as to who is “normal” and who isn’t.

When I was a little kid and just reaching that age where I got really interested in girls, I realized quickly what was expected of me as a boy.  I learned that when you talk about girls to other boys, you talk about how pretty they are or how much they like you.  I shouldn’t talk about such terribly unmanly desires like love and commitment.  Yet another negative experience with my own gender at an early age where I felt ashamed because while I thought about sex as much as any male in puberty (at that age a guy’s brain is basically divided half and half for sex and food with a tiny slice in the middle for higher reasoning) I also dreamed about finding someone to be my companion in all the other aspects of life.  Someone who would stay at my side and me at theirs.  The same sappy romantic drivel I’m still in to today.

My ex and I talked a lot about our childhoods and that universal human feeling of not quite belonging.  All through her life, she was told how to think and what to feel and what was appropriate for her.  A good Christian wife doesn’t question her husband.  She doesn’t have opinions in opposition to her husband.  She is property.  That’s how she lived.  That’s how she started to see herself.

Then, for one brief time in this life, we had each other and got to see what it was like to be our truest selves without judgment.  For a time anyway, haha.  But she opened my world for me.  I didn’t know there was anything left to see out there and she showed me a door I never knew was there.  I think and I hope I did the same thing for her.  She said it was the first time in her life she felt like she was good enough for the person she was with and didn’t have to ask for basic human rights.  It was a forgone conclusion I would do what I could to make her happy, whether that was being her partner in crime, her confidant or just that reason to come home.

So here’s to all those people who swooped in and saved us.  The generous benefactor when you had no money.  The person who sheltered you when you had no where to go.  The person who fought the monsters with you.  The person who threw their arms around you when you were a pariah.  And, on a personal note, to the woman that showed me that love wasn’t an intellectual concept that can be read and put back on a shelf!  I don’t know if we’ll ever find love again, but at least we have a general description now.  That should narrow the search down at least.

To all the men and women in the dating world, remember that the only reason any of us get angry is because we’re hurt and scared.  We have perfectly good reasons to be angry, but if that’s all we ever let ourselves feel, then what’s the point of looking for someone else?  That anger will just poison everyone we meet.  Facebook recently experimented with its viewers by altering the news feed.  When they displayed all good news, people were really nice to each other.  Words like “love” and “nice” increased.  When they made it more negative, people fought more.

I’ll end this in the words of Christian Rudder, who said about the internet and his own site:

“I do wish people exercised more humanity…”

Or, for all those judgmental assholes ruining everyone else’s fun with your impossible standards and mean spirited replies to other people’s potentially genuine interest in you:

“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?!?!?!?!?!”  -Russell Crowe in Gladiator

P.S.  After such a long rant, I forgot to mention that I haven’t really had any negative responses beyond disappointment.  So far people were nice or silent (the next best thing to nice), but as usual my liberal bleeding heart has a sump pump hooked to a vast ocean of concern for internet people I don’t know suffering from traumas that may not have happened to them LOL.

P.P.S.  Based on what you see here, try to guess whether I’m the kind of person who writes too much or too little on dating site profiles and IMs.  Just making up for lost time.

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God’s disappointed in me and the feeling is mutual

So, obviously I’ve been gone a while.  Been dealing with a lot of drama and then I was so tired I rarely got out of bed besides work, though I let a lot of that just slide.  I used to do battle with depression all the time when I was a teenager.  It’s been a while since I had the blues this bad.  I’m getting out of it now, but I’m still worn out.

I’ve been thinking of moving.  I really don’t like it where I live.  It’s a depressing place.  Most of the residents are dying or insane, poor and broken.  The local economy was dead before the market even crashed.  Many of the people around here are in jail or prison.  We have a registered sex offender for every 50 people.  And there’s also a fish out of water aspect.  Most of the people here are elderly ultra conservatives, so when politics comes up (which is all the time) I have to keep quiet.

The other day some people I work with were making fun of a guy for being gay (based on his hand gestures) and I mentioned that it was a generational thing and that I didn’t give two shits what a person’s preference was.  They informed me that, of course, it’s wrong.  The Bible says so.  Then she literally said “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”  I had never heard that spoken in real life.  I had to hold my tongue.

I get along well with my these people and I don’t dislike them.  Their belief structure and my own are radically different, but I do believe a person should be able to be prejudiced;  to hate whole groups for poorly defined or thought out reasons.  John Kerry’s right, Americans have the right to be stupid and ignorant.  I know I’ve been pretty ignorant at times and had to exercise that particular right often and with great vigor.  It’s just a reminder that I’m not like them, I can’t be like them and I wouldn’t want to be like them.

I read the Bible from beginning to end as a boy.  I’ve always wanted to do the same with the Torah and Qur’an.  I liked Jesus.  In fact, growing up Catholic, Christ’s liberal message of commonwealth, morality over law, universal love and redemption helped to shape my own ethical and philosophical development.  If I was religiously inclined, I would be Quaker.  I’m particularly fond of their policies of stewardship over the Earth and peaceful co-existence.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that a lot of agnostics and atheists are also Quakers.

Normally me and religion get along fine with our live and let burn in Hell for all eternity policy that serves us both well.  But recently I was included in some other people’s crisis of faith during my own crisis of heart.

A few months ago I met a family that just moved to our area.  A husband, a wife and two little girls.  She was a co-worker of mine and they spent a lot of time on the grounds.  We all got to be good friends.  She’s a great conversationalist and our discussions simply flow along.  I’m known far and wide as the guy who never shuts up.  I even talk in my sleep constantly.  I love a good conversation.  I especially love it when I’m not just annoying someone by talking at them endlessly until I realize I should have shut up a long time ago and they actually carry the conversation with me.

Her husband was kind of weird at first, but he opened up in time.  He even had my back when a bunch of agitated customers (and meth addicts) were getting out of hand and there was a decent possibility that if he hadn’t been there I would have received a serious beating.

I’m terrified and awkward around kids.  Always have been.  This summer, being in charge of security for a pool, I’ve had to be around a lot of kids of all ages.  Still I tend to keep my distance.  I never know what to say to them.  And if they aren’t behaving, it can be impossible to reason with them.  For me, if something doesn’t respond to logic and reason, I have no concept how to deal with it.  I have to say though they’re little girls were so sweet.  I can kind of see how a couple might end up wanting one or two of these strange tiny people for themselves.

Time went by and they started having marital problems.  She said he was growing more and more distant.  I tried to cheer her up and encourage her that everyone had fights and low periods in a marriage.  Each person deals with stress differently and he probably just tried to take it all on himself to protect them.  Maybe not what she wishes he would do, but an effort based on good intentions.

Unfortunately, she was also having serious health problems and a major surgery looming in the future with the possibility that it was cancer.  Then the kids started getting sick too with urinary tract infections.  She often came to me for medical advice because of my background in transcription.  This totally plays on my ego because in my own head I’m a real life Dr. House, sans the doctorate.  Or a GED.

I noticed his odd behavior a few days before it all broke apart.  We all did.  He was so withdrawn.  His friendly demeanor was gone.  Instead, he seemed to go back and forth between completely withdrawn, angry and pouting.  He sat pool side writing Bible passages out again and again.  I offered him a job, which he had asked for, because after being here months he still hadn’t found a job (though in actuality he had turned them all down.)  He turned down the job I offered because it was only minimum wage and “it wouldn’t pay for the gas.”  They live 3 minutes away.  Plus, he knew it was minimum wage when he asked for it.  He seemed angry that we would suggest it.

The next day she called in sick and I began a nasty Crohn’s flare caused by stress.  I heard something in her voice that triggered it.  This isn’t uncommon for me.  Stress goes right to my gut.  When I was younger, some friends said I was psychic LOL.  Skeptical as always, I don’t believe that.  I think my subconscious is just trained through my childhood to pick up on subtle cues to predict people’s behavior.  I learned early on how to predict disaster because it was a weekly occurrence.  No more psychic than a sailor who knows the signs of a storm because it’s the difference between survival and a watery grave.

Later, we learned what had happened.  One of the little girls had been caught touching another child in a sexual manner.  When asked why she had done it, she said it was because she loved the other kid and that’s how daddy shows his love for her.  He then threatened to kill his wife and their neighbor’s husband, so he could run away with the neighbor’s wife, who out of no where was now the love of his life.

There’s restraining orders against him now, CPS is involved and he’s likely going to prison.  She’s also well-protected in the meantime.

But even when he’s in prison it won’t be over.  If he were dead, wearing concrete shoes on the ocean floor like he deserves, it won’t be over for those little girls.  They’re going to carry that betrayal with them all their lives.  There’s nothing you can say or do to make it better.  Childhoods broken like glass and the best you can do is glue it back together and hope it holds.  Nothing will ever look the same to them.

I’ve been alive for 28 years.   I go to work, I laugh and live my life, I talk to my friends and do my best to be a good person.  I would say that I’m happy.  Not movies and T.V. happy where you find some kind of permanent onset joy, but I’m happy more than I’m sad.  I’m content more than I’m discontent.

However, to be perfectly (i.e. way too) honest there’s a reason I’m still single.  I have trouble even asking a girl out, much less forging a lasting relationship.  Because I’m afraid that other people see me the way I see myself.  Seeing me through my father’s eyes.  My friends pay me compliments.  My bosses and co-workers tell me I’m good at my job.  My mom tells me I’m a great son.  I tell myself that I’m not so bad.  There’s more positive than negative in me.  But that self-loathing and doubt bubbles up from that old, buried fault line.  And I start wondering how a person could care about me when I’m so clearly lacking.  Damaged goods.  My father didn’t even believe I deserved to live, much less be happy.  It’s a personal demon I struggle with all the time.  My mind is a house that was built on a sink hole and I have to watch where I step or I’ll fall through the rickety old floor into hating myself again.

I wished that those girls could grow up without that.  I wished that their mother never knew that rending guilt that my mom went through at not being able to save her own baby.  I wished that they all never knew what it’s like to go to bed scared that a person who was supposed to love them could show up at any time to hurt them.  I wished that I would still have my friend to talk to each day.  I wished I wasn’t so profoundly selfish that in such a terrible situation I would waste a wish for that last one.  If wishes were horses I’d be crushed under an equine mountain.

I’m so tired of monsters.  I’m tired of looking at people and wondering how dark it gets in their heads.  Wondering if the person they’re showing me is the real them or a distraction.  Just once I’d like the chance to see something good and not watch it be destroyed.

After all this, a few days ago, a well-meaning friend (who also got to know the family well and thought of the husband as a great guy too) tried to cheer me up by reminding me that this is all part of God’s plan.  I looked over at them.  It’s like you could see in their eyes them building that little wall around the misery to keep it safely ensconced and the tremendous effort to build a wall so high and thick that it could contain it all.  I answered that I knew that was true.  Thanking them for that little pearl of consolatory wisdom, then sharing an awkward silence that they seemed to interpret as a prayer.

Now, as a warning, if you’re religious, you should stop reading (I can’t imagine why you haven’t already considering what a heretical misanthrope I am.)  What I say next is coming purely from a place of pain and anger and has no constructive purpose but to get it out of my own mind.

I hated them in that moment.  I pure hated them for saying that to me.  I hated them for being so naive and perverse.  I hated myself for being so jaded and angry.  I hated the world for being just so fucked up.  I hated God for not existing.   If this is how the world is because it’s a chaotic, dog eat dog existence, then I can take solace in knowing that it was a construct of pure randomness.  That’s just how the matrix of human suffering formed.  I can process that.  Not quickly and not easily, but I can do it.

If there were a God and it just set the whole thing in motion and left, I guess I can say “Well, it probably had no clue this would happen.”  Still, a tad bit on the sociopathic side.

But if there’s a plan.  Then this universe is more cruel than I can fathom.  Then this planet is a prison with no guards and at least a couple billion wrongly convicted inmates.  I simply don’t see how this brings people comfort.  I don’t understand why you would want to believe that God had a plan that involved two innocent little girls being violated by their own dad.  I have no fucking clue why a person would want to believe that.  That would rip my damn heart straight out of me and it’s already dangling by a thread after all this.

The idea that when we all die and go to Heaven and see the final M. Night Shyamalan-style twist ending to this thing, we’ll all turn to each other and be like “Oh, now it all makes sense.  Yeah, that was totally worth billions of rapes and murders, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Holocaust, Rwanda, the 2003 tsunami, the Black Death, all of it.  Shit, what fantastic writing God.  Seriously, I can’t wait for the sequel.”  Sorry, this movie is the sickest crap I’ve ever seen and the ending isn’t going to make it any better.

My friend meant well.  She’s a good person.  She wanted to cheer us both up.  To make it seem like all this suffering wasn’t for nothing.  And who knows how this all turns out.  I went through my own personal hell when I was younger and, excepting a couple broken hearts like this, I’m hanging in there.  All wounds clot over in time.  The bleeding stops and sometimes nothing teaches a person empathy like terrible scars.  Every time you’re about to treat a person like crap because of the hand they were dealt, you feel that familiar ache and remember that day that life cut you down to the marrow too.

I shouldn’t be angry at her or her beliefs.  She doesn’t begrudge me mine.  Ah hell, maybe she does.  Maybe when I was angry at her, she was peeking at me pretending to have a moment of prayer and I was just the fly in the ointment.  How do we all put up with each other?

I wish so badly that I could become God.  You’ll know when I achieve apotheosis.  You’re debts won’t be paid off, work will still suck, you’ll still be going through a messy divorce and you’ll still die when you get old (or sooner if you claim that I helped you score a winning touch down or write a hit country song), but until you’re 18 I won’t let anything unbearable happen to you, and even then, you’ll never have to be afraid of genocide or atomic bombs or being among 300,000 other people washed off into the sea by an “act of God.”  People will still be assholes, but no more monsters in human skin.

With me, your God would be a pompous baffoon, he’d talk too much (90% of the world’s shrubs would be on fire 24/7 to recant the events of a classic MadTV sketch or tell you fun facts about the mantis shrimp he just read about) and he’d remind you every day how much he did for you to feed his own martyrdom complex, but I’d watch over everyone, every second.  So, vote for Fanatical Hypocrite for God, because the current administration really dropped the ball.

She went through her surgery and we spent that week in the hospital with her whenever I wasn’t working.  Keeping her company and bullying her overworked and beleaguered doctors into taking better care of her because while she’s patient 10 million to them, she’s the only one of her we have, so they better take good care of her.  Somewhere in the world a nurse just rolled her eyes.  She had a rough recovery, but she’s alright now.  All that anesthesia and pain medicine kept her miles away from her problems and now it looks like the weight of reality is settling on her shoulders.

I kind of miss my whiny even whinier teenage self.  He would have threatened to kill himself and written a crappy suicide note about how he was crying tears of blood on the inside because the world was so blah blah blah.  I miss that.  It was therapeutic to be that selfish and annoying.  When you get older, you realize you’re going to live through it.  It’s terrible and it’s broken you’re faith in your world and your ability to trust your fellow human beings for the twentieth time, but you’re gonna drag yourself further down the road out of habit.  Besides, self-absorbed as I am and probably more hindrance than help, I have to be there for all the people I love.  All we have is each other.  God help us all.  Or not.  We’re used to it by now.

“I beg your pardon
I’m not looking for a cure
Seen enough of my friends
In the depths of the godsick blues.”  –Acid Tongue by Jenny Lewis

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The Cowardly Traveler Pays the Toll

It’s only been almost 2 months since I created the music section of this blog and I’ve written an astounding 0 posts in it.  Promises from me cannot be trusted.  Better later than never I suppose.

So, the first musician I have to introduce is Simon Joyner.  I’ve told a lot of people about Joyner and thus far I haven’t found a single person who knew of him.  That’s really sad because he’s awesome.  Also, I swear to God (I know, I know, that doesn’t count for much coming from me), if you steal his songs rather than buy them, I’ll hunt you down like an animal.  I don’t care if you steal Lady Gaga’s personal jet and both kidneys, but seriously this man actually needs his music revenue.

Ah, he’s probably doing alright.  Success is such a relative term in entertainment these days.  Nobody’s ever happy with the niche market.  Like when Star Trek Into Darkness came out and was deemed a financial failure after it only brought in 13 million dollars it’s first day.  Now, of course, it’s the highest grossing film of the series with 450 million world wide, but can you imagine creating a product that makes 13 million dollars in a day and yet people could still call you a failure?  The same problem seems true of music these days.

Joyner is described by Wikipedia as being Americana.  I wouldn’t say that, but then again I’m not entirely sure what Americana is sound-wise.  Perhaps I’m trying to translate the writings of Mark Twain and John Steinbeck into music.  The only musician I’ve heard that I would call Americana is Arlo Guthrie.  Joyner is better represented as indie folk.  He was part of the one man Omaha folk underground movement that he created and whose torch Conor Oberst would later pick up.  Most of his songs are about failure and imperfection.  Lamentation about the common banalities of modern life.  Ugly, ragged and tattered.  He doesn’t have a great voice and while he has made some beautiful songs, most of his work is discordant and broken.

One of the earliest songs of his that I liked is the “Simultaneous Occurrence of True Love and Nausea at an Omaha Burger King Oct. 12 1992“.  While a rough early work, it shows the beginnings of his style.  Most of his songs focus on simple characters in simple situations.  Strange, unique and common at the same time.

The work he was the most famous for (and what this post is about) was the album the Cowardly Traveler Pays the Toll.  The whole album can be found through that link to stream for free.  Known for inciting the first Peel Incident in which British radio DJ John Peel played that album from beginning to end.  Considering that most radio stations butcher individual songs to shorten them, playing a whole album is a major rebellion.  It’s definitely an album worth hearing from beginning to end in my opinion, though it might not be the best place to start.  It begins with the rough 747, which is the quintessential Joyner style.  You can find the scene it describes in any major city, but seen through his own unique eyes.

Address is the classic example of a friend who transitions from suicidal gesture to suicide attempt.  The discordance is so palpable.  The melody is creeping and slinking, trembling over the metaphor of a phone line that has just become a lifeline.

Our Lady of Perpetual Healing always strikes a chord with me.  It’s an interesting look at the constant battle between logic and emotion, mind and body, morality and nature, and the other dualities that make up a human mind.  Every test you encounter in life is really a struggle with yourself.  It’s all about your weaknesses and failures, your strengths and your successes.  We use them to define ourselves and yet our real identity comes from the struggle rather than the outcome.

Montgomery is about his father, who spent his last years in the Montgomery V.A. hospital and hospice system.  Later in his career he would write the Veteran’s Hospital Song, which was also about his father and veterans in general.  Like him, I’m not a big fan of the long lingering deaths our society feels are the only God approved way to die.  If I’m miserable and the doctor tells me that the only thing I have to look forward to is further deterioration, I’m not going to some elderly concentration camp.  My philosophy about continuing to live can best be seen in the division between being prepared for a disaster and readying yourself for doomsday.  Bad times are always around the bend.  You have to try to plow through.  But if there’s only bad.  If that’s all there will ever be.  Then count me out.

August (She Must Die) is a little tongue-in-cheek tribute to the culture of summer.  When you think about it, summer is quite the spectacle.  A time of adventure, romance and foolishness dictated by the planet’s seasonal equilibrium.

Target is lamenting getting old.  Maybe he’s drawing a connection between his father in Montgomery and all of us.  We can go to Montgomery and pity what we see there, but we’re all headed there.

Josephine is about his wife of the same name and how, in his imagination, she left him.  They’re still together last I heard and they have a kid.  I think he’s a little bit like me.  Sometimes he has to let his mind take that dark path to see a present that could have been or a future still possible.  Pessimism is a way of life for many of us.

Fallen Man is one of my favorite songs.  The annoying background sound, the painful voice and disorganized melody all combine with the psychedelic lyrics to paint a vivid picture.

“With the care of a surgeon, transplanted a dead heart.
All his veins and his vessels are sudden dead ends.”

It has everything a great song should have:  Screaming, bizarre metaphors and vicious pigeon attacks.  I can’t and won’t ask for more from any artist.

Appendix depicts a man going back to his childhood home of New Orleans to find his roots and it has a sort of bluesy feel to it.  Like all searches for your childhood, you find only the skeletal remains of your past.

I’ve made many pilgrimages to the various sacred sites of my childhood over the years.  Not too long ago my mom and I went back to the city where I spent my teen years.  We went to our old house that we had lost to foreclosure after her stroke.  When we lived there, there were trees in the front yard to offer shade to a beautiful raised block wall garden.  The back featured a pool with a rock waterfall and a natural flowing style to it with more trees and another garden.  We got in trouble with the neighborhood watch for running a poultry farm.  Said poultry farm consisted of 2 silkies that could each fit in the palm of your hand.

Well, with us gone they got their wish.  Now ours and everyone else’s houses look alike.  They cut down all our trees.  They re-sodded the garden to cover over where they had been.  They tore out the flower gardens in the back and graveled the back lawn.  It looks like the American Dream or any episode of a Sci-Fi series that features a normal looking neighborhood that is secretly infested with monsters or aliens.  The good neighbors are gone, the assholes are older and grumpier.  The leaders of the neighborhood watch that complained about our poultry farm were still there.  I imagine they still give out pamphlets about finding salvation through Christ for Halloween.  Eggs and toilet paper seem magnetically attracted to their house.

As a complete aside, they once planted a tiny tree in their yard.  It half-died fairly quickly.  For the next 3 years, this tiny little undead sapling stood watch over the yard, the sole form of arboreal life in a span of three lawns.  One year they put a bird house on it.  The bird house was a third the size of the tree and only about 2 feet off the ground.  No takers.  Unlike all their predators, birds don’t appreciate a ground floor apartment.  That winter there was a wind storm and the tree snapped in half from the weight of the bird house.  Only a fool builds their house upon the sands and only my idiot neighbors try to build a bird house upon a twig.

Cole Porter features some fascinating ideas about personal and cultural identity.  Like all the other songs, it’s about death.  Not death itself, but how we deal with the death of what we love and our own mortality.  What concepts do we invent to salve the pain?  How do we cope with the knowledge that our time here is limited?  Power, money, cosmetics, reproduction, religion, and everything else are used to armor ourselves against time.  As far as we know, no one’s armor has ever withstood it.

Joy Division finishes the album.  The name comes from the band of the same name, whose lead singer killed himself after a long struggle with poorly controlled epilepsy and his wife leaving him.  He was 23 when he killed himself.  The song itself finishes the death theme of the album.  It centers on powerlessness in the face of death.  Grief is always the hardest thing to deal with.  If you’re in a situation you don’t like, you can try to change it.  If you can’t change it, you can always check out early like Ian Curtis of Joy Division did.  But for the people left behind, there’s nothing they can do.  Regardless of how you lose someone you love, it always leaves you feeling so powerless.

“They say my head on the plate
Might curb the debate
Over the unbearable high cost of living
But papa, everything falls apart!
Everything falls apart!
And the grass will grow
As surely as they’ll break your heart.”

To me, that finishing line, implies hope in the face of inevitability.  The grass keeps growing.  Through broken hearts, lost friends and fading memories, life moves on.

Some time later, I’ll have to talk about his other songs.  He has had a very long career and albums full of beautiful songs.  The Cowardly Traveler is a brilliant work and one of my favorite albums, but many of my favorite songs of his came later.

“Well, all the medicine in those sermons
Still can’t keep his brazen nose from turning
Because salvation, may be free of charge
But faith always costs him something.”

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