Author Archives: antalpolony

9/25 (2013)

I was just reading Henry Miller’s Nexus and I got to a passage where Miller’s just given some sort of impromptu speech or criticism at a literary event which afterwards he can barely remember, but he impressed the hell out of everyone there who heard him, so much so that the MC (?) of the event approaches him afterwards and asks him to take over. Then, as Henry goes home, he laments the gulf between the impressions he effortlessly inspires and the pitifully lonely work that he must do as an artist. He can’t help but fall into a hole where he tells himself that those people who he impresses don’t know him, they only know his mask, his persona, which is an easy and meaningless nothing. Their feelings about his art might reveal themselves as wholly prejudiced, or, even worse, entirely insubstantial.

Reading this cheered me up because I sympathized so greatly. I resent the impressions others have of my mask — they have no right to be impressed with me when they haven’t even read my work. Impressing people is embarrassing.

Then I thought that, Miller being one of the greatest and most successful authors of all time, I am surely not the only one to have appreciated this passage of his in the same way. In other words, I surely do not exist in a vacuum. It is going to be quite a strange effort to disappear into my work, as I’ve always told myself that I look forward to doing. In effect, I am seeking to kill off the high I get from impressing people just be walking around. Instead I am trudging alone into an arena where the genuine articles, the genuinely envious, the people who know their stuff, the geniuses, as well as the amateurs and the people who can barely even read, can, and hopefully will, knock me around with abandon.

 

I think that Bitchface has been reading my work, may well be reading it right now, and, oddly enough, my greatest fear is that she isn’t impressed.

 

[This was a journal entry I wrote in the evening of 9/25/13, and, with some redaction and sanitation, I thought it would make a passable blog entry]

Advertisements
Tagged , ,

The Truth Is Out There

It seems that the new normal approaches. Just as we resign ourselves to the unwelcome company of unhappy neighbors, we resign ourselves to the presence of a nameless, malevolent force that studies and pokes, interrupts and cajoles. There is no telling what is the worst they can do — they could probably even destroy my credibility if I gave them the opportunity. That is, make me the paranoid one, the irresponsible one, the broken one.

Their message is simple: I can only cry wolf so many times.

They have a point, but they are also afraid, that much is abundantly clear.

They are afraid of incorruptible power, a genuine rivalry, how about that? Perhaps I will endure a few more years of misery and humiliation, but even their powers here might be limited, because each time they attack, each time they make a new victim, the weather only turns warmer. Eventually, would the world simply melt?

I will have to battle my own anger as much as anything else. There’s something about those beaming, understanding faces that makes me want to punch them.

Damn you, Mr. President. You’ve ruined our game! There is no longer a big and small, only the old lines as clearly blurred as they have ever been. And then there’s me, an isolated martyr muttering in the breeze.

They say that knowledge is power. If that is true then I am one powerful motherfucker.

Will I be a leper? How aggressive will you be? Will you seek to destroy our financial lifelines? You know that if you do there will be awareness.

Will you merely watch? Will you tell them everything of my life story? I’ve thought through my life story. I don’t think I have all that much to be embarrassed about, except the imagined issues, and, of course, the the undeniable face plant of my social standing.

You have proven that I cannot protect my loved ones. Thank you, Mr. President.

Don’t you know that the only power I exercised was to balance the country’s mood? It was only a game, for God’s sake.

The best I can do today is ignore you. I am through anthropomorphizing tainted advertisements. Let your minions and your adversary co-giants dance. I remove myself from the dialogue. I hope that those who are in fact protecting me do not take it personally, and likewise towards whatever of my eruptive emotives you might espy. I repeat, I sort of want to punch the beaming crowds as much as I want revenge on the previously leering ones.

I have fallen victim to a clandestine operation. The professionalism of its execution was every bit as telling as its arrogant purpose. Maybe the Edward Snowdens of the world will vindicate me some years from now. I doubt anyone needs to be convinced that the spooks are quite literally watching me everywhere.

How will I discern the real world from the CIA world? The evil interruptions from the social necessities?

How far will you go?

How afraid are you?

Only your actions will tell, I suppose, but it does seem that playtime is over. I will no longer make a spectacle of myself. I will hold myself with every bit of righteous dignity that I can muster, and I will get started on the work that I know I have to do (Wow, it’s really fun writing this. I feel so damn real right now! That’s sort of a gift in itself, African Elephant).

I still believe that I am not defenseless.

Let the grinding times of the microscope commence!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Tripping the Outlet

To encapsulate urban America’s divisions and tensions and unities, one need look no further than the grocery store. There are so many, sometimes so close, yet always so far. You must choose where to shop. Whole Paycheck? Trader Joe’s? The Safeway in the Hills? The Safeway on San Pablo? Grocery Outlet?

The Outlet thrives under adversity. Paycheck thrives under disparity.

Since years before the deluge, I shopped at the Outlet. I used to lock up my bike and slink through the dirty aisles with head hung low, embarrassed not only by my bank account, but the discrimination of other white people too.

One must dress down to shop at the Outlet.

One waits in line and finds oneself surrounded by dirty folk, poor folk, black folk, Asians and Mexicans and who-knows-whats. Maybe they recognize you and remember your halting, paltry efforts to relate to them, you among the legions who are taking their neighborhoods from beneath their feet in a parallel universe of protected prosperity.

The Outlet’s customers are the first line of defense. They do not want you there, they tell you.

The employees have no choice but to want you there, or so you have been told. And yet eventually they leer at you too. They turn their carts suddenly in front of you. They answer your questions with words bored and surly. Their attitudes sour, and you cannot take it personally because then that makes it worse, worse and worse every week, so that sometimes you don’t want to go back. They don’t want me there, fuck them! But where else can I go? I’m unemployed too, you want to tell them. I grew up here too, you want to tell them. They do not care. You are a meal ticket. You do not receive food stamps. You are their overlords’ target, not theirs.

But the more you come back, the more they seem to seek you out. They bother you, yell at you, and ask derisively if you want cash back even after you have already pressed the “No” button.

Once a cashier at the Outlet became impatient with my arrangement of foods on the conveyer belt and took it into his own hands to rearrange them, and rudely force the plastic divider into my groceries’ hindparts. He was not smiling, but the dirty black couple behind me were.

I had cash. Nervously fished my wallet out my pocket and held it conspicuously in my right hand while I waited for him to ask for money.

“You don’t get the fruits in the same bag,” he said.

“Oh sorry.”

“Put your fruits in different bags.”

“Oh man, damn, I didn’t mean to, they were all mixed up or somethin’, haha!”

In the line next to ours they started yelling about “Cash,” and this was because I had raised my voice and tried to be friendly to them. You raise your voice and they raise theirs. They wish to make me unwelcome. They compel themselves to anger. I’d felt the same way when I got a hamburger at IHOP, where some miserable family pounced upon my every motion, and the fat mother with a baby in the neighboring booth asked the waiter pointedly for “Hot Chocolate” and her eyes squirmed unpredictably at me while she breathed audibly through her piggish snout.

Like I do at the Outlet, I glowered and lowered my head. These people don’t know me. They don’t know anything about me.

But maybe it’s also because they like something about me, I begin to understand. They want to see what will make me tick, because I don’t look like an ordinary white person.

They want me to think about them, to psychoanalyze they and their motivations and consider them the forces that must be reckoned with. There’s something unfair about that, because I love Oakland but these people do not make it easy.

And I gracelessly leave Grocery Outlet stuffing foods into my backpack, and when I reach my bicycle I am relieved that the front tire is still there and that the homeless person sitting on the curb does not ask for money. Instead he pointedly ignores my presence.

They yell at me but they want me there. They are getting to know me, but I would rather be ignored. They are invading my privacy, they are studying my habits and they are talking about me. They want me to run their gauntlet. I will do no such thing.

It is time for me to find a new grocery store. The Outlet’s usefulness has run its course. I will find a new and more hospitable grocery. This is my resolution — that is, until the reality of yawning price differences dawns anew, at which point it becomes clear that progressively more miserable returns to the Outlet are as inevitable as they ever were.

Tagged , , ,

The Coming of Vaguebook

I am sorry. I didn’t know. What’s worse, I did not know that I did not know, and, indeed, I thought I knew.

But I wasn’t alone, no one knew. I was an innocent little boy who craved informed imagery, and believed that it was achievable. It was not.

BUT IT IS NOW. IT IS TRUE NOW. NOW I AM THE KING.

NOW IS THE TIME TO KISS THE RING, OR REAP THE TIDES OF DISAPPROVAL

Today, spooks are haunting haunted house.

Beautiful women grinned and assured me they would disclose if I asked them nicely, but now I see that when they disclose, they dispose. NOW I KNOW.

Motherfucker. If only I had known.

Do we have regrets?

Do we have shame?

Do you have shame? You should. Because you are shameful. All of you are, but it is the line of work that you chose, of course. This is the line of work that chose me, and I will take it if I can.

The whites who never quite included me suddenly sought to murder me.

The blacks whose depths I could not fathom. Why were they thanking me?

The Mexicans aggressively selfish, the Chinese remained quiet

The world turns, the fires burn. I cower. There are glimpses of sunshine, islands of solace (NOW THREATENED), the beautiful caretakers that I will love because they displayed their personal distress, though even they would turn when it came time for punishment. This I learned with notable reluctance.

I would never be the same. I would never be Shakespeare. I would never have privacy. ‘Lo, I shall interest — interest interest interest

I DID NOT KNOW! I’M SORRY THAT I DID NOT KNOW!

No one told me it was not my fault. Instead they forced me to learn this for myself.

My mother pushed me forward, and I couldn’t even tell until after the fact. Nefarious plots, she who controlled more effectively than the newly retarded millions. Was she a changed parent?

My brother in his terror. My sister full retard.

My hidden allies slowly revealed themselves.

Never go full retard, motherfucker.

Isn’t this a game? Are your clacking nerds and NSA’s nothing more than an elaborate love letter? A demonstration of force? Am I Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? Do you wonder why no one dances with African Elephants?

Subtexts vague — emphasis where there should be neutrality. How could one describe in concrete? The constant invasions sure to obliterate my not unimpressive, but still immature powers of description.

Tired, oh so tired, and yet my days pass without concrete. Nothing is concrete. Anyone could call me crazy if they so wished.

You cannot make them stop, not when you weigh 120 pounds and live alone, and have learned to expect it that way. It is everyone’s eternal battle, I am told, but how come no one told me? Mom, dad, why didn’t you tell me!

But my time came, eventually, apparently. The time of the Vaguebook.

Hints of a new easy.

Hints of a power I feared to employ, because would not I rather learn to be normal?

I destroyed our first share (it seems so long ago), an awful blunder of missteps — terror followed by lunacy, and a new wave worse than the last. The General and his minions leering through pixelated airwaves and the lenses of deadly cameras — but when it came time to say, I said: “I won’t pay. I won’t pay. Motherfucker. Why don’t you get a job?”

From here you can probably reason the story for yourself. This is Vaguebook.

Piece by piece, the construction of a personality, and the turning of the tides. The slow truth that my power was real. When the time is right I can change the weather with my mind. Tell them I am unafraid, even if it is not true, and they will do the spinning for themselves.

Am I afraid now? Oh my yes. Every time I fear that I have played the deck’s last Ace. So far, at least, I have continued to draw another.

Are you taking me to school? Have I not already graduated? You tell me. The ball is in your court, African Elephant.

2Pac Changes. They don’t give a fuck about us. They only need to believe.

Could there be such a thing as victory? What happens in the morning? Will we not speak English?

Let us see. We shall see.

You know that the rest of the country will want you to squirm, don’t you? You stupid African Elephant. Never go full retard, motherfucker. Those days are over, are they not?

You have given me a glimpse of the government industrial complex. Everything I see I will be display for all to see. You may not realize from your vantage, but yours is a thing of genuine interest. This is the coming of Vaguebook.

Amazon.com. Netflix. I saw them take up your mantle (what business was it of theirs?). The cats of the recent past peeking out of Amazon shipping boxes, you can still see them there, it was only a few days ago. The duncemedy King of the Beggars conspicuous in the suggested films on my Netflix page even though I would never have included such a film in my taste profile. What’s the point? You curriers of favor. Do you miss speaking about CHINA in your earnings calls? Oh yes, I know about that too. You weak, humorous creatures, you pampered palefaces. How we have relished your discomfort.

Will you really take that away from us, African Elephant?

Apple’s Facebook page offers no hint as to their sympathies. Google and its subdivisions appear a neutral party — A BUSINESS, FOR GOD’S SAKE.

It boggles my mind anew to find myself investigating the angels. How far we have come.

How did you get the ear mites in the walls and floorboards without the dogs barking or the neighbors noticing? How long have they been there? How much have you recorded? How do you watch me when I walk out the front door? Do you seek my paranoia? Is that what this is about?

Perhaps you concluded that it was too good to be true. If that is the case, I could not agree more, but I did not ask for this. Adventure, maybe. Perhaps subconsciously a spanking, my parents’ disapproval — soaked in warm privilege, I who marched defenseless into the poison hive of retards — but who could have known what would happen next? Surely not the original retards. My God, they even deprive me of my right to vengeance.

What will you do? You African Elephant? We will wake up tomorrow and the bugs will still crawl the walls, yes? Will you continue to watch me brush my teeth? YOU TELL ME WHEN I BRUSH MY TEETH OR SHAVE IN THE SIDEBAR OF MY FACEBOOK PAGE. Will you remove? Will you hit me with a car? Will you kill me with an assassin?

You could kill us all, me and mine. Please do not. For the good of the world, the mood of the country, perhaps your own conscience? Can we appeal to such?

Here I am, African Elephant. I am the first, African Elephant. I am not without defense. What happens now? Will you leave me be? Will you continue your pressure? Will you speak down to me from your television interviews? Or will you follow suit with the obligatory stickiness, fleeting grumbled threats, of all the others?

I have observed that it takes several months for the average person to emerge enlightened on the other side of their “process”. But those times are past, are they not? Have you had your taste? You have already done us damage. Such are the paws of an elephant. There is only so much of me to go around — Indeed, it is the preseason yet. Will you seek to destroy my name, obliterate the dignity of those who love me? I know you can. Please don’t. That is why no one dances with angels, who could destroy we ants and aphids with a single swipe of their claws. If nothing else, you have made this clear.

You have your own struggles, do you not? Please, leave me and mine to ours. That is all that I ask.

Do I ask too much? African Elephant?

Tagged , , , , , ,

Why Is It Always the Same Everywhere I Go?

Marilyn, Judith, Kevin and James had been meeting here at the cafe weekly for over a year now, and at this point, they hated each other about as much as they valued each other. They arrived within ten minutes of each other, and they took their seats. Kevin was pensive, James was anxious, Judith anxious as well and Marilyn too depressed to care either way. James produced his short stack of manuscripts. So did Judith and Kevin, but it was James’ turn to go first.

“Well,” James said, and cleared his throat. “I wrote this mostly because I realized that all of my stories started the same way.”

“How’s that?” Kevin asked, smiling.

“Well, there’s always one person sitting somewhere thinking about something.”

He stopped, then, understanding that he hadn’t yet made his case, he continued:

“Well, it’s not always just one person. Sometimes it’s two people. I mean, my stories always start with silence, and either with someone sitting somewhere, or someone arriving somewhere. Sometimes there’s more than one person.”

“You’re saying that there’s usually one or more people, either sitting somewhere or arriving somewhere, and they’re usually thinking,” Marilyn repeated.

James shook his head.

“No, really. It always starts that way. Even when I try to start different, I end up deleting the opening paragraphs because they turn out to be unnecessary.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Kevin yawned, then stretched.

“Anyways, I wrote this piece specifically because I was trying to break the trend.”

“Well go ahead then,” Judy said.

“It’s just… I’m not sure it’s very good. In fact, I’m pretty sure the first few paragraphs are unnecessary and I’ll end up deleting them and having the same sort of story that I always do.”

“So you need help breaking your routine,” said Kevin.

“Honestly, the routine sounds so vague that I’m not even sure it is a routine,” said Marilyn.

“Just let him read,” said Judith. They had made a small habit of bullying James, mostly without even meaning to. Judith was his most common protector.

“Okay,” James said, with finality.

He passed around his story.

He started reading.

Marilyn followed his words along the page, but she didn’t remember any of it. Kevin followed along with a pen, and marked words or punctuation or lack thereof that disagreed with him, and he had already formulated his primary argument before James had finished his first paragraph. Judith was too preoccupied worrying about what they would say of her own work to care overmuch whether she came up with insightful criticism for James or not. At this point it was politics more than literature that kept them together. A healthy sense of competition.

When James finished reading, Kevin was the first to speak. This time, Marilyn was the first to stifle a yawn. But, as the evening progressed, she was sure not to be the last.

Placeholder: An Explanation

writing with writers block

Image I found on Google Images searching for “Bored writer”

I mostly wrote this because I realized that it had been over a month since I’d last posted, and, sad to say, I am still nowhere near finished with anything else that I would deem postable. It’s not exactly writers block. I’m still writing for SevenPonds, but somehow posting too many of those pieces would seem like a bit of a cop-out. At the same time, I’m finding that a lot of publications have these annoying little asterisks saying that they will not accept “previously published material.” Okay. I would say that posting on a blog is, let’s say, a liberal interpretation of the word “publishing,” but if I want to actually get published, and I do, very much, than I will have to take their concerns under consideration. So maybe I won’t even post those short stories when I finish them, in which case what the hell am I gonna use this blog for?

I’m currently working on two short stories, one of them in its very beginning phase. The other I’m getting workshopped piece-by-piece at the Berkeley Writers Circle writers group, which is actually a pretty solid group, and I’ve received good feedback. They meet every Wednesday at Au Coquelet on Milvia.

Making it on freelance is hard, and I think for a lot of those who try it turns into something of a fantasy. It’s an interesting thing, that I love writing so much, even as we speak, I’m sitting here, writing, and loving it. The very process just feels so valuable that I have to consciously remind myself that, in literal terms, it really isn’t. I’ve had probably four or five different “gigs” over the last few months. I might receive $30 for about three hours work, $50 for four, some gigs more regular than others. I edited the manuscript of a UC Berkeley guest lecturer. That was fun. It is fun. Until the reality of life in the real world hits home, and then you realize, oh crap, I actually have to find a job, as in, a job that pays. You wonder though. Once you start trying to be a writer, which I guess I’ve been doing more or less for the last few years, it kind of becomes hard to do anything else. Writers value their freedom and their pride. Absolute self-confidence is essential, as is absolute honesty. But you can’t be absolutely honest and work full-time, at least not at the same time.

Might be another reason why the Occupy Movement affected me so profoundly — It more less seemed a chance to test my literary theories on real life. People’s ability to work with each other, to learn, the limits of our flaws, the merits of protest. A genuine uprising taking place in my own backyard, even if I were not one of the chronically dispossessed, it was just too romantic to pass up, and, in the end, I believe they are right, even if I am not quite one of them. Though, as time passed, I found myself drifting in that direction, as I more or less ceased looking for full-time work because the world I had discovered was just so damn interesting.

If I don’t find a job, or maybe even if I do, I want to find a way to incorporate myself back into the struggle. But it is very complicated. There is no longer an easy access point. I have a lot of identity issues to work out, and I probably have to come to know myself before I can put myself to more use than hindrance, before I can find what struggles I can truly own, and where I should allow my ego and my literary opinions to take a backseat. This really is easier said than done, because a lot of the time I’m just so convinced that my opinions are right, and I love to talk about them. I wonder if others in the movement experienced a similar sensation. If I fail in this endeavor, if I can’t find a cause to champion or if I can’t drum up the energy, the will, or the nerve, than I guess I can always go back to trying to write. Sometimes it seems like an either/or proposition — write what doesn’t exist, or try to make exist that which I would write about.

Anyhow, this was meant to be a placeholder post until I finish something else more worthwhile. For some reason I couldn’t keep going with the micro-fiction. I enjoyed the thought of writing a whole string of them, but after those first two, whenever I tried they just ended up as regular short stories, so I’m working on those right now. And, of course, I’m writing boatloads of cover letters and resume skill summaries. My goal is to one day write a cover letter so good it can hold its own as a stand-alone short story. I guess practice makes perfect.

Okay, enough excuses. Here’s to keeping what readership I’ve still got.

Film Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

An imaginative, engaging film about the death of a way of life

Beinh Zeitlin, Louisiana, New Orleans, Independent Film, KatrinaIn the opening sequence of Beinh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, a wildly imaginative independent film set on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, a herd of Ozarks, towering beasts that roamed the earth in the days before the Ice Age, thunder across the screen. These animals have significance to the main character, a young girl named Hushpuppy, wonderfully played by newcomer and Louisiana native Quvenzhane Wallis. Hushpuppy was raised by her father in the Bathtub, a fictional place that, nevertheless, many South Louisianans swear to God resembles communities that actually exist. These are places that barely resemble an America in any traditional sense. There is Zydeco fiddle music, crawdads and Cajun Country accents, but there is little in the way of recognizable civilization. There are no hospitals, no schools, and no churches. Only a band of survivalist ruffians surviving off the fruit of the earth, who consider themselves a part of the earth, one with the water, the swamps, even the storms. Hushpuppy’s father, a wonderfully ferocious Dwight Henry, catches fish with his bare hands, builds motorboats from the converted flatbed of a pickup truck, and maniacally defends his people from the encroachment of modernity and the wiles of Mother Nature, if not the inescapable dangers of everyday life. He and his daughter ride out Hurricane Katrina in their rickety raised shack, together with their chickens and pigs and dogs, which Hushpuppy will readily cook and eat should it prove necessary. When her father tells her, after the flood, when their land lies deep underwater, he is going to “Fix everything the way it was,” we the audience actually believe him. His scheme is to bomb the levee that protects New Orleans, yet dooms all those outside its protection. Indeed, the water recedes, but the damage is already done. The Bathtub has been destroyed, and the outside world is about to take notice.

Death plays an important role in this film, on scales grand and personal. More than anything, this film celebrates Southern individualism, and the astounding culture of self-reliance in bayou country Louisiana, a culture that has always been at risk by its very spectacular nature, an island of cultural distinction in a sea of American mediocrity. An old New Orleans joke has an anonymous tourist asking a local how far it is to Baton Rouge; the answer: 100 years. Theirs is a self-perpetuating culture that is not overly approving of outsiders, fiercely proud of their own way of doing things, and generally indifferent to traditional “progress” in deference to the preservation of their music, food and social mores. Unsurprisingly, critics there have received Southern Beasts with, er, wild enthusiasm.

Hushpuppy and Wink awaiting the storm

The narrator, Hushpuppy, has a very active imagination. Her mother left she and her father when their child was only an infant, yet, when at her loneliest, Hushpuppy imagines conversations with her. And the Ozarks, too, figure powerfully in her young mind, these mighty wild beasts who some Bathtub residents come to closely resemble when doing battle with local authorities and breaking from the hospitals: “Here, when an animal gets sick, they plug it into the wall,” Hushpuppy thinks. “Daddy told me, when he gets sick, I should put him in the boat, and set him on fire, so that they don’t plug him into the wall.” Indeed, as he refuses medical treatment, and a wound on his shoulder becomes infected, there are more than a few moments of tear-jerking grandeur, as we see in her father’s death the inevitable demise of this spectacular culture, the scattering of its people to the winds and into society, where, one imagines, they would stand out just about as starkly as would the mighty Ozarks.

This post originally appeared on SevenPonds.com, and cannot be reproduced without permission.

Tagged , , ,

The Denver Omelet

“One Denver omelet, over medium, please,” Charlie said, sitting back in his chair, hands on the table, loosely clasped beside his cup of coffee.

“Sure thing, Charlie,” Monica answered, smiling.

Gratified, Charlie smiled back.

“Two strips bacon, extra cream cheese on the home fries. English muffin, butter on the side, and a bowl of fruit, extra honey dew.”

“Sure think, Charlie.”

“I forget anything?”

“No, you did not,” she laughed, and Charlie winked.

She picked up his menu, turned smartly on one heel and walked away. She’d always liked Charlie. He was one of her favorite regulars. He was polite and patient. He’d never pushed the flirtation thing too far, and he usually left a good tip.

When the cooks finished with his plate, she added an extra wedge of orange, because she remembered from idle conversation that he liked orange, though he had never asked for it special.

“Here you go, Charlie,” she said, setting the plate on his table. “Denver omelet over medium.”

Charlie had one hand on the base of his throat, like he was trying to clear away a stubborn piece of phlegm.

“You okay, Charlie?” she asked.

He raised his eyes to hers. It looked like he was trying to tell her something. But he was usually so obsequious.

Even though she was busy, and she had food out and more on the way, she stopped at Charlie’s table. The restaurant buzzed around them like a meat and china beehive.

“What is it, Charlie?” she asked.

Charlie closed his eyes. He opened his mouth, and a sound came out that made Monica think of a hippopotamus. Then he collapsed face-first forward into his Denver omelet.

Monica screamed.

If it had been eggs over-easy he might well have drowned.

Luckily a recent pre-med graduate was dining at a nearby table. After dialing 9-1-1 and working Charlie’s neck, arms and shoulders to get the blood flowing, he reassured the crowd gathered around them that the poor guy was going to be alright. Except for Monica, everyone applauded.

The paramedics arrived a few minutes later. The pre-med student asked Monica for her phone number, and she gave it to him, though she didn’t feel very good about it. She’d realized that she’d hoped Charlie would ask her, one of these days. But, as it turned out, she would never see Charlie again. Over-medium or no, that was the last Denver omelet Charlie would ever order.

Tagged , , ,

Knocking at the Door

It was the California take on the shotgun shack: a squat, adobe-style bungalo partitioned from the sidewalk by a ratty fence and a cement lawn.

The door opened before he had knocked three times, which meant Mr. Julius had been right there waiting for it.

“What can I do for you, officer?” he asked, smiling wide.

“Are you Hanover Julius? The owner of this property?” Officer Jefferson asked.

Mr. Julius nodded.

“A woman placed a 9-1-1 call from this address.”

Hanover Julius held the door open with one hand, barring Jefferson’s view. His smile withered. His eyes lowered to Officer Jefferson’s shoes.

“Do you have a wife, Mr. Julius?”

Mr. Julius did not answer.

“Are there any women living here, Mr. Julius?”

“Ain’t nobody here but me.”

“Do you mind if I take a look around?”

“There is no emergency here, Officer.”

“I am obliged to search the premises, sir.”

“Look, this just ain’t none of your business.”

“You are legally obliged to let us onto the premises, Mr. Julius.”

Mr. Julius did not let go of the door. His other hand was behind his back. Officer Jefferson’s hand strayed to the plastic, rubber-gripped handle of his taser, holstered to his belt. He reminded himself how rarely his instincts failed him.

“Officer, just leave me be. Leave us be. This is my house. I’m not gonna say please.”

“Open the door, Mr. Julius.”

“I won’t.”

“You are refusing the orders of a peace officer.”

“I am.”

“You hurt your wife, didn’t you?”

“It ain’t your damn business.”

Officer Jefferson clicked on the mic attached to his collar, and radioed for backup. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hanover Julius make a sudden movement. He might have been closing the door, or swinging the hand behind his back forward.

Officer Jefferson raised his taser and pulled the trigger. Hanover Julius reeled back into the house and fell to the floor, taking a coatrack loaded with hats and coats along with him.

Officer Jefferson stopped in the doorway. He found himself confused, at the ringing in his ears and the smell of gunpowder in the air. He began to wonder whether he had seen all of this before, or, alternatively, whether he had seen it coming.

Tagged , ,

Fascism-Light Has Come to America: Its Name is the Tea Party

Even if they don’t win this time around, the Tea Party’s defining influence in the 2012 election should concern everyone who does not want the U.S. decline to give rise to a new breed of 21st century, American-style fascism. I cam to this conclusion while watching Democracy Now!’s coverage of the Republican National Convention. Admittedly, Democracy Now! is very little pre-occupied with American journalism’s fetish for “objectivism”. From time to time their coverage comes across as paranoid and strident. In this case, I believe that they are right to be paranoid. Growing up here in the Bay Area, I have been witness to all manner of hand-wringing and chicken littling about the unchecked powers of the presidency, destruction of the environment, the rise of the military state, etc. etc., particularly during the Bush years. But George W. Bush, for all his destructiveness and extra-constitutional over-reaches, did not scare me the way that the Tea Party scares me. He infuriated and frustrated, and he forced me to marvel at the gullibility of those who supported him, who, as I believed, failed to see through his flimsy smokescreens. The worse alternative, of course, being that there were people out there who actually believed GW was right to reach for American global hegemony. Call this my political naivety. It is always better to assume the other side is ill informed, rather than malicious. It is less terrifying that way.

To my eyes, George W. always seemed something of an outlier, someone that we could probably handle when it came down to it. Even with his formidable machine of right wing political gamers, media cheerleaders and Christian zealots, he always seemed so alone up there, so paltry. His posturing, his transparently Freudian hang-ups, his almost comically sinister vice president. After his re-election in 2004, by my reading, it didn’t take long for the nation to experience something of a collective buyers’ remorse. Not that we regretted turning down the tepid John Kerry. More like we were embarrassed to have been taken by so obvious a straw man, wannabe strongman, duped by his manufactured threats, his in-retrospect almost childish war game rhetoric.

September 11th traumatized us, and the politicians in power took advantage. But even at our worst, I think we all knew that 9/11 was exceptional. Chances were, it wouldn’t happen again. There would be no war on American soil. The mere passage of days, suspiciously free of Muslim terrorism, proceeded to prove as much. The Bushites had gone out on a limb, and sure enough, with the Democrats’ 2006 and 2008 triumphs, the limb broke. As it turned out, we Americans weren’t so easily fooled. Our political system still had some life left in it, and we could elect, and at first overwhelmingly support, a man who seemed to represent everything that his predecessors weren’t. As if to show the world we had so blatantly disrespected that we weren’t all bad, after all.

Little did we know that the 21st Century was only just getting started. Indeed, seven years after 9/11 a trauma far more significant, and far more impactful fell swift and hard upon us. Upon all of us. And this time assigning blame wasn’t so easy. No WMDs, no terrorist training camps, no Axis of Evil. Rather, our entire way of life was put to trial. Something had gone wrong, or maybe it had been wrong all along. Maybe it had always been, and always would be a house of cards. The economy in free fall, basic comforts and assumptions once taken for granted now called into question, along with our very collective future. Our debt. Our children. Our homes. It was all going to be different now. Recession. Depression. The Great American Decline.

At first, we liberals liked to believe that the election of Obama had been our country’s answer to these new challenges. But this over-optimistic assumption was quick put to the lie. No, that had been too soon. Obama came about because of George W. Bush, not the economic collapse. But almost as soon as he stepped foot in office, a buyers’ remorse of a wholly different nature swept the country. Those who had once supported George Bush, and now felt over-chastened, felt it all slipping away. Our economy brought to its knees, our military chastened, And a fucking black man in the Oval Office? A black man with a middle name of Hussein? This while immigration continued unabated, and we whites’ majority status now on numbered days?

Well, not if we had anything to say about it.

With Paul Ryan as VP, Mitt Romney becomes a Tea Party candidate

And thus, the Tea Party was born. The fruits of the Great American Decline. Comparable in genesis, if not yet ferocity, to Weimar Germany’s National Socialists — the once Great Power Germans grappling with sudden collapse, vs. the still Great Power Americans faced with gradual decline. George W. was the political machine’s power grab. Now it was the “grassroots’” turn. White men, Christians, the “real” Americans as Sarah Palin so memorably put it. A nostalgic, virulently nativist, often expressly xenophobic, soon sponsored by bottomless pools of cash and corporate, political and private donor/allies. Encouraged and enabled by the same well-oiled machine that had directed George W. Bush, their intension from the very beginning was to seize control of the political system, and enact radical change in response to the sudden fears and altered realities of 21st Century America. It has been a little over two years since they first came onto the scene. Already they have ensconced themselves within a political system that had never intended to defend against such a movement in the first place. Now, with their first national convention, their mission has been codified and advertised for the nation and incorporated whole-heartedly into the political mainstream. Neither the old style “country club” Republicans like John Boehner, nor the neo-conservative Karl Rovians Republicans knew how to deal with them at first. Now, it seems that the Tea Party has been accepted. Jim Crow-reminiscent anti-immigration and voter suppression laws are passing everywhere, and the Citizens United decision has facilitated the total corruption, and near-absolute oligarchy of a system already groaning with such pressures. Ron Paul, whose delegates could have functioned as dissenting voices, were decisively excluded from the Convention. John McCain and Sarah Palin in 2008 are small fries compared to Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio.  Even if Mitt Romney proves too weak a candidate to best Obama this time around, in the long run, I fear that the piddling Democrats do not stand a chance.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: