Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Valuable Friends

Wrote after a friend of mine passed away: "Some people you don't see for years and years but they're always on your mind. They don't get there easily. They probably annoyed the hell out of you a lot. They most definitely loved you. And you them. But they're there, living their lives inside your mind and only occasionally brushing hard against a memory to bring the face to your forefront. Some faces demand to be held steady between hands and kissed softly to slow the face down. Haggard from the workday, a chance for peace at home, these faces draw strength from mundane pleasures. Maybe memories of you. Maybe memories of themselves. When we're lucky we get to remember we were beautiful. Some people are perfume, the kind that lingers like a coiling thread, wispy but tangible as a touch. These people are royalty. The long-suffering ones, the receptionists, the file keepers, the moms, the doctor s, the wishful, the trusting, the forlorn, the loving. They're everything and everywhere, but to someone out there, they're never forgotten. That has to mean something. Losing a friend makes you realize what a fool you’ve been. Said goodbye to a valuable friend today. I met her as a younger man and thought she was a queen. And that, my friends, is where she will stay."

It was a note to folks I hadn't seen in a while, people I worked with long ago, people I hugged that day. Then I added "...It was good to see everyone. I don't have all your email addresses but trust--if warranted--that this note will find its way to the GEMB crew, those who were there today to whisper 'Safe journey' and everyone who couldn't make it. Numbness can sometimes be a beautiful thing, but when it wears off you're shockingly left with who you are. You reach upward because there's nothing beneath you. Or you reach outward because you realize no one is ever alone."

People who, undeniably, are a part of me.

This was supposed to have been my introductory blog but emotions have been so jumbled that in writing it I jumped from cliff to cliff after whatever truly needed to be said. I put it to the side. Others stepped forward.

So here we go:

Necessary information: These writers are all better than I am. Read them. Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Christopher Moore, Walter Mosley, Mil Millington, Harlan Ellison, John Gardner, Harper Lee, Octavia Butler, Joseph Campbell, Phillip K. Dick, Milan Kundera, William Shakespeare, Basho…

Seek them out and the thousands I didn’t mention. A public service announcement.

Secondly, should you care that I’m at work writing to take up your valuable surfing time wherever you happen to be employed? You should not. This is nihilism at its finest. You’re here because there are people near enough to catch you lingering over porn in your cubicle, but not to catch you glancing randomly at text on a screen. If you frown you'll look dedicated, carpal tunnel and bad eyesight be damned! I'm reasonably sure you can read this blog in safety. Something about your job irked you off today, and by damn you need this! I’ve got your blog right here, love. This is the new porn. I will be your Dick Rambeau.

I have no intention politicizing you, converting you, or teaching you about your inner self. If you’re stupid at the beginning of this blog, by god, you’ll be stupid at the end. If you’re smarter than me, well, keep that kind of rudeness to yourself. Or blog elsewhere where no one will read you because you, dear clod, are not Dick Rambeau, Shakespeare’s wily cousin. Better writers than me (see? atrocious grammar) have shown me that a blog must be a public service. As your public servant, let me clear the air surrounding a few prevalent conspiracy theories so that we can all move on to new and better insanities. In no particular order of heinousness or awe: Bush did it; the Loch Ness Monster has been captured; a full-fledged female orgasm is not something men should be privy to—not that that happens when we’re around, eh? Much like Santa Claus, there’s no such thing as Christianity, unless you’re willing to drop the pretense that it’s so much more than a pagan hodgepodge, in which case we’re all Christian’s at heart, Hooray! The needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few (if they did then the ultra-rich would be at our service, wouldn’t they, and being sickly entertained by Paris Hilton’s vagina—there’s probably a new tape out there somewhere—does not count as a valid service). When’s the last time some wealthy prick approached you needing time off to tend to a sick child? And, yes, you specifically are the many.

Theory dismissed by the blinding light of truth # 6: You will always have family. No, you will always be trying to get away from family. The conspiracy is that the ties that bind make a cord stronger. The truth is that a strong cord is essentially a good tool for hanging oneself. Do you realize the odds of you not being born into a family??? They’re astronomical. There’s going to be someone there in your immediate or far-flung future who thinks a few watery strands of shared DNA undeniably and unequivocally means you owe them something of yourself. And really, that’s all you come into the world with: yourself. Protect it. The old saw is that god created friends to make up for family. This truth has so many branch points. Family is conscription. Friends are largely voluntary. Family is good for the occasional holiday card, yearly barbecue, and having someone available to help you move furniture from one home to another. Friends—who realize without restraint that they don’t have to put up with your shit—are good for the good stuff, which is life itself. Love should be worked at, not assumed. Drop a nickel in the pot if you agree.

Last of the conspiracies: Death. Don't you dare believe for a second in that flimsy boogeyman. Death can kiss my left nut. Really, how do you die? When you think about it, death's a weird thing. You're trudging along without being anywhere in the vicinity of figuring out what anything is about and then, unceremoniously, Bam, brick wall, you're done. Over. Finito. When you're dead, goes the song, you just ain't there. Doesn't it seem cosmically weird to put all this energy into being here and then, phft!--a pretty lady whose only prior ailments were poor taste in men and the occasional female problems dies from a heart attack. Nobody up and dies from a spleen attack, do they? That'd be ridiculous. You'd get to Heaven, get asked how you got there, say "Spleen got me" and get laughed right out the Pearly Gates. A heart attack is equally ridiculous. That a single piece of equipment carries that much operational power without there being reliable backups is shoddy design work even Bill Gates would frown upon. Cancer? I can see dying from cancer. I've seen far too much dying from cancer. Half my immediate family. Cancer's a full-out attack on the body complete with inner espionage, double agents, sleeper agents, moles and hateful propaganda. The body--your body, the thing you've lived in since forever--at war.

But a heart attack? That's just stupid and it makes me mad. A woman I haven't seen in a long long time died recently. They said she had a heart attack. Had she grown weary? Had it grown lonely? Had it missed opportunities? Was it waiting for me to call it? Years and years and years ago we were very close. It's rare that a man and a woman can be attracted to one another but realize there's so much more to explore together than what's in their pants. Not platonic. Platonic is when folks try to pretend there's no frisson. We were passionate with our friendship, very flirtatious, practically lustful, but we knew that it was best we merely play with those notions than give in to them. As fun as we were, I didn't want to wake up next to her for the rest of my life, and the flipside is the same for her. I suppose I could get psychological and say we sublimated our feelings into acts of conversation, shopping, advice, other exertions (I highly recommend working out with someone you're attracted to but shouldn't give in to--best sweat session you'll ever get), and just basically chillin' around the notion of being really good friends. And I'd be right. But we were cool together. Life and time intervened to where the junk drawer of the mind added one more set of keys you'd never remember which lock they were for, and we lost contact. Plus we'd had a falling out, which increases memory loss. The firm we worked at disbanded, I the asshole told her to take care of herself, and that was the end of it. I pretty much took our friendship away from her based on youth and stupidity. I am an utter twat. The twatness comes out like Tourette's. My wife tolerates my condition because she's basically crazy as a saint, but I know that I'm a prick.

I should have remained her friend, and not become the guy who gets an email years later saying she's had a heart attack. I would have warned her about her heart's planned cowardly sneak attack. I watched out for her like that. Don't you dare believe in death. I'm not talking religious 'Rise up and have sweet pudding for eternity' disbelief in death. I mean that it doesn't happen in the first place. It is a huge conspiracy, one so vast that it doesn't even bother trying to hide in the shadows. We're supposed to actually live, be productive, engage one another, all while threatened with the random capriciousness of the big Here-Not-Here? I bloody well think not.

"Some people you don't see for years and years but they're always on your mind. They don't get there easily. They probably annoyed the hell out of you a lot. They most definitely loved you. And you them. But they're there, living their lives inside your mind and only occasionally brushing hard against a memory to bring their face to the forefront. Some faces demand to be held steady between hands and kissed softly. To slow the face down. Haggard from the work day, a chance for peace at home, these faces draw strength from mundane pleasures. Maybe memories of you. Maybe memories of themselves, as beautiful as the last note of a lovely song. When we're lucky we get to remember we were beautiful. And she most definitely was. Some women are perfume, the kind that lingers like a coiling thread, wispy but tangible as a touch. These women are queens. The long suffering ones, the receptionists, the file keepers, the moms, the doctors, the wishful, the trusting, the forlorn, the loving. They're everything, but to someone out there, they're never forgotten. That's simply not possible. Putting certain women on pedestals isn't some foolish errand. It's an inescapable and necessary function. My friend whom I haven't seen for longer than I've been married is dead. Death is bogus, but that doesn't mean she ain't gone. She's gone. Ask me where and all I can do is shrug and look stupid. Dunno. People will and do say things like She's not gone as long as we remember her. Bull. She's gone. If I wanted to pick up the phone and catch up on things with her, I couldn't. That ship's passed. Gone. Dead. But it's a cheat. Death is a cheat. They want you to believe that it has to happen and you have to deal with it, but it doesn't, and I'm damned if I'll deal with every snatch of a good person away from me and the tiny universe I hope to control. Not believing it. Not having it. Not about to go quietly into that good night. Her name was Sheryl. I met her as a younger man and thought she was a queen. She wasn't, but she was. And that, my friends, is where she will stay."

A bit of a rant. Will try to keep same from reoccurring during future sessions, if anyone is inclined to return. But if we can't rant when we lose somebody important, why the hell are we here?

Ten Years of Marriage

What I’ve learned so far about love is that it requires a lot more shutting the hell up than you’d think. Not being told to—that’s rude and boorish, and deserves nothing but unending solitude—but taking the reins and telling oneself. Because there are times when the last thing a loved one wants to hear is the reasoned, logical male evaluation on why her twin sister quite understandably lusts after him. That’s a shut the hell up moment, even though you (he) are not trying to brag, you’re (he’s) just trying to share. We (men) share clumsily compared to ladies, who really don’t share, they parcel, parcel with keen eyes. Even when a woman is crying her eyes out about all the whatevers in the world, she’s still looking to see who and how the reaction takes. Don’t lie about peripheral vision, ladies! Many innocent men have been thrown against the wall because you thought we were looking at someone else’s (or yours) cleavage when we thought you weren’t looking. No. We know that you are always looking, so when we look for cleavage we do it full frontal, cutting out the awful drama of false positives.

Clear example: I’ve been in a lovely relationship for 16 years. As of October 9, 2009, ten years of it married; I would kick a dragon in the nuts after it’s had a very bad day if I thought doing so would help in any part of my wife’s day. My wife has nothing but sisters. Over 16 years my relationship with the sisters has gone from “Who’s he?’ to “Him again?” to “Ok, it’s him” to “Hey, it’s him!” to “Dead thing in the basement; I need him” to the hellish world I exist in now where I am so comfortably less a man and more a “brother” to them that—and let me just say in case the wife is trolling the internet instead of working as she should be doing, that no, I am not looking—that they think absolutely nothing of bending forward facing me with nothing but zoombas clear to the ground. Do you understand the severity of the issue? Women…wearing clothing…should not bend over in front of men because it releases the clear and present danger of the accidental peep, and the accidental peep always turns into the lingering stare precisely because it’s accidental—you weren’t supposed to see it!

And so you stare. Because it’s not supposed to be there. Boobs. You’re talking to your sister-in-law one second, the next you see boobs. Because her shoelace is untied? Come on! The finest scientific male minds would be unable to reconcile that kind of burp in reality. They’d be like, “The quantum frequency of the universe has been found to be exactly that at which babies cry,” and then Professor Sheila Marple stoops for a pencil and science is like “Yeah!” Professor Marple standing up would look exactly like my wife—who’s a lovely lady approaching 50 who can stay precisely 18 inches off a car’s bumper without the benefit of road rage—adopting that worn expression that says shut up, even though you haven’t said anything, and grow up, even though you haven’t done anything. The shut up part is crucial, because you don’t say “Yeah!” outloud. No. That’s the shut the hell up self-censorship men spend their days honing to perfection. But we still get the shut up-look.

Here’s what happened: sister-in-law (twin sister but my wife looks better)—and before I go on, please know that both women are sufficiently boobed to give priests good dreams—is wearing a loose tee shirt. Sister-in-law is wearing a bra under said tee shirt, but that only makes it more alluring (root word: lure, as in I’m a victim here). Sister-in-law bends over to brush crumbs from a kitchen chair on a bright, sunny day. Major sun-washed boobage appears. Right there. In front of me. All I was doing was raiding her table for grapes! Now there’s cleavage in front of me. Naked, incestuous, sister-in-law cleavage, and not just hanging motionlessly like a lover just going through the motions, but wiggling as she swatted at crumbs as though swatting away all the inhibitions of her long life, every failed relationship, and the comfortable marriage she now found herself in, wiggling with weight and warmth, the two things men are genetically programmed to seek in terms of food and shelter. And it’s not like I suddenly got boner-shame. I didn’t stand there gawking. The whole 3-second ordeal I’m thinking ‘I’m not supposed to see this!’

And she stands up, and I’m left thinking ‘She knows her boobs are there! No way she doesn’t know she’s got boobs. And tee shirts fall away from bodies, especially on women on account of not having static-electricy bodies keeping their clothing relatively stuck to them. So ipso facto domini sangria, she knows she’s flashing me, which means that she wants me.’ Now, I explain this to the wife as if I’m a confused 5 year old who’s just seen a terrible car crash and is trying to come to grips with a suddenly very hurtful and cruel world—which is basically the same as being flashed by one’s sister-in-law (again, clearly not an unattractive woman, as I married her identical twin)—and I ignore the ‘shut the hell up’ voice because, clearly, this is something the wife needs to know in case she ever comes into the kitchen and sees what looks like me staring down her sister’s blouse; and I tell her her sister’s probably got a thing for me—again, clinically. I don’t have the hots for her sister, but I’m not a bad looking gent either. Add the ipsos up and the shrugging conclusion lands in the ballpark of “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.” Most would agree that’s something a wife might want to know in passing. Most tend to be wrong, exampling the sorry state of the world, myself included.

If nothing else, though, I sincerely believe that such full disclosure will most certainly absolve me of the few licentious and unnecessarily guilty thoughts I hadn’t quite managed to quell. A court of law would ask, “Did you seek the boobs?” No. “Did you pause to appreciate the boobs?” No. I merely continued to eat the grapes. “And at what pace was that?” Slowly. One does not want to choke. Here’s where shutting the hell up would have come in extremely handy, because women really really don’t want to know what’s on our (men’s) minds. There’s enough to make them prematurely gray as it is. And remember, in my world there are teary-eyed dragons clutching huge scaly testicles, so you’d think the love I have for my wife ought to make me quietly let things go. Again, see: George Bush. So I tell her that it’s happened with her other sisters too. Let’s pause. I have told my wife that I routinely scope the tits of her sisters. This is not what I’ve said, but it’s what I’ve told her. Men think they’re sharing. Women know we’re being cross-examined. My wife has a way of biting down with the left side of her teeth under very flat, dead eyes that leaves the outward impression that she is patient enough to smother you in your sleep at any moment of her choosing. Anybody besides me seeing this facial menace wouldn’t know of her murderous intent, so she’d beat the rap and take the insurance money to some beach island where all the men’s leafy dongs create swinging tropical breezes. But I know the look very well. I would like to think that in the next 50 years as our marriage grows toward being the TV movie of the week where she releases my Alzheimer’s-addled self into the woods where I can live free once again that love means there will be a lot less having to shut the hell up. I’d like to think I can at some future point actually tell my wife what I think of Charo in particular and Mexican women in general.

Until then, shut the hell up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Ugly, Yet Awesome, Truth

Nobody ever admits they do their best writing in the bathroom.

(Being genteel, there's no need to elaborate on activities beyond the work.)

Bathroom writing is the closest to being in some kind of Paddy Chayefsky 'Altered State' isolation chamber. Characters there exist fully realized and unashamed, bounding about the walls and toothbrushes like the freed Neanderthal living inside all of us. It's quiet in the bathroom until people begin to look for you, and even then you're safe from interruption (assuming you live in a 2-bath domicile) because you're in a bathroom. What kind of lowlife scum is going to burst in and risk that kind of emotional scarring? Granted that writing is a hobo's activity--and my hobo pack of tools travels extensively (mostly pen--I am the last person in America without a laptop, owing to the fact that I'm pretty much broke—send your gently used laptop to…)--but the pristine clarity of bathroom thoughts (different from and yet somehow the same as just-woke-up thoughts) means that, should my writing ever take off, my first dedication will properly thank Johnny On The Spot first, my wife second, and my highly tolerant Muse goddess third. I would love to write in my office but as that generally surreptitiously occurs at work, I make do with the small, quiet space outside my bedroom that welcomes me—with cottony softness, no less--pretty much every day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

By Way of Introduction

By Way of Introduction…

There are no naked pictures of me here. Consider yourself blessed. The sole adult content involves the judicious use of cuss words and random, frank discussions of genitalia as events warrant. Other than that, power down and put the lotion away. It ain’t that kind of show.

My name is Clarence Young. I’ve written 6 novels. You don’t know any of them. They haven’t been published. NOT FOR LACK OF TRYING. Actually, maybe a little. There’s only one in active circulation, and I’m beginning to think it really doesn’t give a you-know-what. It’s out there going through the motions, but where’s the passion? The book and I used to love each other, parting breathlessly with me eagerly anticipating word from it on its many adventures. Now it’s “See ya bye,” “Yeah, Ok,” and the manuscript shuts the door while I return immediately to the TV. I do short stories, the occasional poem, sci fi, literary drama, comedy, and—if the mood is right—erotica. Can’t read that word without getting tingly, can you? Reaching mentally for the lotion, aren’t you?

I love it when we’re horny.

You’ll never find me in McSweeney’s, which is a knock against them. Matter of fact, I’m thinking of posting everything I write, wrote, written here for bloody well free. New York can kiss my wrinkly left nut! Raise the one-gloved fist. I am in Dee-troit, dammit. I bicycle these mean streets for fun (actually a bordering suburb), and when I’m done I have TCBY yogurt. Or Dippin’ Dots if they’re open. My niece hipped me to the double D. Very tasty, and if you get just the right mix of flavors—heaven.

You betta recognize.

Understand, this blog isn’t about me. I’m not witty in person, not particularly thoughtful and, to hear it from my pre-teen nephew, sometimes I smell funny. Such a dear child will certainly go far. On a computer, via the light speed of the internet, I will strive to be serviceably witty, thoughtful, amusing, pithy, and sexy in briefs or boxers…but this isn’t me, is it? Unless we’re who we are when we get a chance to slow down and prepare. But that would mean this “fast paced world” is a sham. And surely our corporate entities, in whom we trust many valuable dollars, wouldn’t mislead us with false messages of haste and worry. By the way, I’m at work right now. White collar job in one of the older towers in the city, a gem from the thirties full of no-account doctors and tiny “Save the (insert perpetually downtrodden)” groups. There’s also a huge corporate office of Disney drones above me. Disney owns radio stations here in town. The building fears their unseen faces. It’s hard for me to defiantly shout “Stick it to the Man!” because my Man is, well, nice. Hell, he’s bought me chili cheese fries. Can you fault a man who buys you chili cheese fries? If you have no home training you can. But the idea of the Man—now you’re talking! Don’t get me wrong, I do my job extremely well (they pay me just enough to keep me coming and I do just enough to keep getting paid, etc, etc), but in the quiet hours when doofs aren’t calling on the phone with inane questions and salespeople return to their underground burrows to think up annoying phrases to mesmerize potential clients (more on “Powered By” in the future, bet on it), I have very little choice but to assemble a mental audience and sing to them. Feel the aria! In the quiet of the workday I sing a melody—Blogosphere! When the conference call it dawns, trapping my boss perhaps an hour—Blogosphere! When they see that I am typing but they don’t realize my words are rhyming—Blogosphere! I’ve written entire short stories here at work. That’s a proud accomplishment. There are any number of interruptions and distractions the job throws at me, but I persevere. That, dear ones, is what you and I connuble about. Perseverance and a sense of enterprise that opens the future like a floozie’s legs... and we’ve got 20 dollars and some change! Things just look bright for us. Very bright. There’s hope that people won’t be quite so dishearteningly stupid. That’s what this blogsite is about, Charlie Brown. If it makes me a million dollars, hell to the yeah!, but—as I’m sure there will never be more than 3 people out there reading this—more likely it will keep me from smearing grape jelly on my wife and doing filthy things to her to ameliorate yet another long, tiring day. Cathartic is the word. This is therapy. Please note my job offers no health benefits. I’ve been here 5 years but I’m still classified a temporary employee. Therefore, consider me proactive as I fight the power and increase my mental vigor with this, The Blog You Are Reading At Work In Lieu Of Performing Work Which Really You Have No Time For As It Annoyingly Interferes With Much More Important Things. Hell, there’s a short short story coming up. You might need 5 extra minutes on lunch. Oh, you 3 brave, proud men (women)…you magnificent bastards. I salute you to the last and would diddle you furiously if I wasn’t married, you weren’t a man (as, to date, I’m intractably heterosexual), and free love didn’t come with the additional baggage of free disease. Diddle you most furiously! Where there is passion there is life! God save the Queen. Let her hump to her heart’s content!

By Clarence Young

He was fired after two weeks when the manager overheard (to a pretty woman), “I grant thee fries with that.” Zoog was the last of the gods to step down among men after much tugging and pulling. Free fries seemed only right in exchange for possible lust or worship, even though in two weeks not a single worshipper had recognized him. But Kevin fired him. Had to set an example. Now he stood by the freeway because he had seen Foom do it. Someone could have told him that, god or no, at Wendy’s fries are never free.


Next Up: Smurfs!