Dripping sounds woke Sam early Tuesday morning. The same sound had roused him every day for three weeks gone. It made him think of old prison movies. He rolled off the squeaky top bunk careful not to hit his head on the hanging pipes of the church basement. He dressed quickly in clean, durable layers and quietly went upstairs to the nice part without turning any lights on. He used the bathroom on the main floor of the church, before the doors were unlocked for the public. Pale morning sunlight showed through the windows, imbuing everything with a blue glow. By the time he came downstairs two other group members were already preparing a breakfast of cold cereal and fresh fruit. Sam joined them.
They all leaned against the countertops eating quickly. Sam made no small talk, staring down at the pink and white tile and its years of washed and replaced grime. As more twenty-something’s emerged from sleeping a faint chatter started, like timid birds, Sam thought. He finished breakfast, made his bed and dressed himself in street clothes, then returned upstairs to brush his teeth.
He stared in the mirror for a many minutes. Being the final week of his service it was now at his discretion what time he would leave in the mornings, where he would go, whose needs he would fill. He had this freedom for five days and then he would leave for home. He thought on this as he searched his eyes for something, a slip of truth. Anything new.
Downstairs again, it was time for morning devotional. Sam picked his book up and sat on a high stool in the circle of found couches and chairs that served as a living room for the transient team members. He reread the same passage he had been reading every day since Emily had transferred out of their mission team. It told a story.
Sometime around 30 AD, Jesus of Nazareth was in Jerusalem playing with the children, and a group of Pharisees came upon him. He saw they were there, and they saw that he saw them. He did not speak to them; instead he looked to the children, smiled and said, “Would you like to hear a story?” The children approved excitedly. “Very well,” he said. “There was a father who had two sons, and he went to the first and told him ‘My son, go and work in the vineyard.’ The son said no, but later thought better of it and went to work. The father went to his second son and asked him the same question. The second son obliged in word but did not do the work,” at this point Jesus asked a child next to him “Which of the two sons did his father’s will?” A little boy smiled and replied readily, “The first.”
Jesus looked squarely into the eyes of the elder Pharisee and repeated: “The first.”
Sam was supposed to go out with two other people. He hadn’t signed up with a group for the past two days. He left before Zach or Hillary, the team leaders, could confront him about it. Sam set out on foot to the BART station with one hundred fifteen dollars in his pocket, one hundred more than the suggested daily allotment from the ministry. Suggested to better understand the needs of the poor. Sam carried tourist money. The train ride into San Francisco proper was feeling shorter each time, the sights familiar and broaching banal. Still, Sam looked out the window. In his faint reflection against the grimy glass he saw that his beard had gotten longer than he’d ever let it, and his brown eyes were dull but still warm. His hair was dark and his face was bright and young, but there was a mute exhaustion that hadn’t been there three weeks ago. He mumbled his prayer out of habit, “Dear father, please make me the salt of the earth.” He got off the train and switched over to the MUNI bus line to work his way deeper into San Francisco.
Sam’s stop was South Van Ness and Market, one of the shiniest, busiest parts of the city, always full of excited people. His guide had compared it to Disneyland without the rides and with twice the idolatry. From there he wandered in the direction of the Tenderloin and considered buying a pack of cigarettes. The smell of others’ smoke wafted over him with the undercurrent of hot grease and early morning pot and garbage stink that enshrouded the poor district. He hadn’t smoked in a month, quit because Emily had asked him to, “it would make things easier in tight quarters”, she’d said. He bought his old brand, noting the high tax and didn’t open the package right away.
Sam kept walking, feeling the gentle slope of streets that hinted at the eventual steepness close to the center of town, where San Francisco rose to a high and majestic point allowing a view of all that surrounded. He’d seen bike messengers scream down those fifty percent inclines and miraculously keep their tires straight. He doubted he could ever attain the sheer physical agility necessary for the feat.
He stopped far up a side street, remembering that he was supposed to be observant of people on these journeys. It took him several moments to figure out where he was. He’d turned away from the crowds of Market and on to Mission Street at some point and had almost walked all the way to the San Francisco Chronicle building. He was not lost, just misplaced. Leaning against a building, he looked at the people walking by. He kept looking, hard. He stood there for almost an hour, waiting for something to present itself.
He thought about getting a sandwich, and decided it would be a better use of his time so he started walking toward a cluster of restaurants. He looked down at the well-kept sidewalks to avoid others’ eyes. He let the cadenced pat of his own footsteps fill his ears, fighting off every thought but the simple one-two-one-two of forward motion. Then it was interrupted. Softly at first, so that Sam thought he could just wait it out, but the new rhythm persisted from somewhere outside his narrowed sight line. Sam was annoyed, though he knew he shouldn’t be. He discovered the break in his reverie: a small man, slightly hunched in baggy clothes with a beanie stretched down over his head to hide his hair. Sam thought he looked aimless, probably hungry. More than anything he looked tired. Sam felt bad for having thought of the man as nothing more than an intruder to his navel-gazing. The man would be none the wiser if Sam had simply stopped walking.
But Sam asked the man the same question he had asked about two dozen times in the last month. He’d gotten really good at it. He could tell who would say “Just fine” even if that obviously weren’t the case. He learned quickly the types that would curse at him. He avoided those. He didn’t know how this man would respond.
“Hi, how are you?” Sam asked him like a friend. The man kept walking and Sam asked the man again, a little louder while he caught up to him.
It took the man a moment to realize Sam was talking to him. In the awkward silent moments that followed, he and Sam sized each other up. Their clothes were equally haphazard; Sam had more of them and a small backpack. The tired man wore a baggy woven sweatshirt with its pockets full of his few trifling possessions. They both had beards; the tired man’s thicker, more tangled than Sam’s and lightly peppered with gray.
“I’m all right.” The man replied not the least bit apprehensive about being greeted by a stranger.
“My name’s Sam.”
Sam felt strange standing there without any concrete intention, so he offered to buy Wesley lunch. Wesley considered the proposition momentarily, mildly surprised.
“Okay,” He consented.
They started walking in a direction Sam chose. He was thinking of restaurants in the area that he had seen and been to during the group activities. While he pictured a map in his head, part of him realized that he had been silent for about three minutes.
“Wesley, where are you from?” Wesley took a moment to answer. Sam thought he might have been jarred by the stark break in silence.
“I’m from all over the place. Before here, Sacramento, before that different places in New Mexico. I’ve been on the road for about seventeen years now,” Sam surveyed him again. Wesley didn’t look very old, and from what Sam had seen years on the street usually counted double on the outside.
“That’s a nice belt buckle.” Wesley was commenting on the large metal buckle Sam had inherited from his grandfather. A plain thing, it was still large enough to draw attention from strangers. “Yeah, it was my grandpa’s.” Sam rubbed it casually with one hand and tried to think of more to say, but decided not to tell Wesley he had inherited the belt buckle after his grandfather’s suicide. Sam remembered a man who had lived almost only for his wife, and when she died, so did he.
Wesley reciprocated by showing his own buckle. “This is my only really earthly possession.” Wesley drew his sweater up to reveal a steel figure mounted on a cinched piece of leather around a skeletally slim waistline. “When I saw it in a store, I just knew I needed it. Saw it below the glass and said ‘that one’,” He chuckled quietly. Sam nodded, and gazed upon the chunk of hammered metal bearing resemblance to a human skull with great horns. He was unfazed by the demonic image.
“Danzig had one just like it when I saw him in concert,” Wesley continued. “You know Danzig, right, The Misfits?”
“Yeah.” Sam had never really listened to harder music.
They walked into a McDonalds after Sam asked Wesley if that was all right by him, and it was.
“What would you like to eat, Wesley?”
Wesley’s feet were sore and he had a headache.
“Whatever you’re getting is fine.”
Sam knew what Wesley was doing when he pulled his eyelid tight across his cornea to stretch it into a shape suitable for seeing the faraway words on the menu. Sam asked him if he was allergic to anything. Wesley told him, “No, no allergies,” and felt momentarily like he was in a doctor’s office. The food came quickly, Sam retrieved it and they sat down. Next to them, a man in a dirty white shirt was taking a nap. The bag in front of him had been torn open to create a private space for his meal.
“You do this a lot?” Wesley asked, gingerly opening his sandwich.
“Sort of. I’m out here with a service group; we do lots of different things. Mostly just try to be nice.”
“You part of a church or something?”
Sam chuckled because he couldn’t hold it back. “Not personally. I…uh…I joined up because of a girl.”
Wesley smiled, “I know how that goes.”
“I came here with her…she’s pretty Christian. Very Christian, but she’s good about not rubbing your face in it, you know.”
“I know,” Wesley answered absently. They began to eat quietly, with utility. Sam eventually asked Wesley what his story was. This had been one of Sam’s favorite parts about working with the destitute, so many told great stories.
Wesley obliged with a description of the events in his life that had led him to that point. There were inaccuracies and questionable events but all were described in vivid detail. Wesley was forty, by his own recollection. He had grown up the son of a military man, and the older brother of a highly successful real estate agent. He himself had been smart, but never very well with schoolwork. He had thought of joining the military, passed all the tests, but he told them straight that he had a problem with authority. The recruiting officer reminded him that in the military he would be expected to follow orders as holy writ. He gave Wesley half an hour to think it over; Wesley left the recruitment office after twenty minutes. Wesley had been diagnosed and in the past been treated for bipolar disorder. He was quick to point out that while he could function well, his girlfriend could not. He didn’t say her name, only that she was his “Abraxas” the fiery spectacle. Sam was impressed by the reference; Wesley had apparently read Carl Jung. In travels with his girlfriend, Wesley had met the supposed son of Anton LaVey, whom he called Stanton LaVey. Stanton had lured Wesley and his Abraxas back to his apartment and forced them to participate in a satanic ritual. Both had barely escaped by Wesley’s recollection. He was waiting on some money to come through in the mail, so he could bail her out of jail in Sacramento and find a place to stay for a while. After this part of he story, he changed gears quickly from his past to the present.
“There’s a singer, named Marilyn Manson, you heard of him?” Sam nodded. “Well, he’s kind of a demonic figure, you know. His name begins with the letters M and M, and upside down that’s WW for Wesley White, always thought of that. I was born on Halloween, always thought of that. There’s always been a weirdness surrounding me.” For the first time Sam saw some of the mania in Wesley’s eyes. It didn’t frighten him. He hadn’t seen anything that real in weeks. Coming from anyone else, Sam would’ve regarded Wesley’s suggestions to his unholy nature as the token rambling of a self-obsessed metal head. Hearing the words and the man’s voice though, he knew what Wesley believed. He knew that to Wesley it was true, and he was jealous of the strength and reliability of that belief.
Sam recalled a passage from John’s gospel, “Deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the Antichrist.” Sam thought of this as he looked at Wesley and, failing to lock eyes with the man, to a reflection of himself in a toy display case behind him. There was a break in Wesley’s story, long enough that Sam could ask a question without interrupting.
“What’ll you do if things work out? Where’ll you go?”
Wesley thought on that, “That’s a good question,” eyes as wide as mouths on ‘good’, “Sometimes I get worried that I’m cursed, that when people are around…I’ll hurt someone. I try to stay away from people, you know.”
Sam trod carefully, “You seem pretty level, but I guess I just met you.”
“You don’t talk like a missionary.” Wesley smirked a little, the look in his eyes intensified. Sam laughed softly, and his mind drifted for a moment. Wesely turned the table, “So how long have you been out here, Sam?”
Sam took inventory of himself, “Three weeks now.”
“You must be getting your fill of San Francisco.”
“I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the streets.”
Wesley asked, “Have you seen the Golden Gate Bridge yet?”
Sam shook his head, and muttered almost carelessly, “It’s the number one suicide destination in the world.”
Wesley cocked his head slowly. “Really? That’s kind of weird.”
The sleeping man next to them awoke from his after-meal nap and looked quizzically at Sam. Sam glanced at the confounded man for a moment, and then turned back to Wesley with purpose.
“Have you ever seen it?” He asked Wesley.
“Not in person.”
As though it were the most obvious thing in the world for a bipolar vagrant and a tourist to do, Sam said, “We should go. I mean, if you want to.” he felt foolish the moment he’d said it. Wesley considered for a moment, wincing in concentration. He took a short breath.
“Sure. How do you want to get there?”
Sam used his bus pass and paid the two dollars for Wesley’s ticket. It wasn’t a long ride, in comparison to some that Sam had taken. Wesley was used to walking everywhere. Wesley asked Sam where he had come from. Sam told Wesley that he’d been raised in the northwest, in a home full of love. He had led a relatively sheltered, calm supported existence and he knew it. It didn’t shame him, but he did feel as though he were ignorant of the world, guiltily so. That was much of the reason he had come here when Emily asked him. He had the inescapable thirst to see the real world, but he was realizing that thirst and tolerance were different things. He told Wesley how Emily had broken up with him and transferred to a mission in Los Angeles about the same time as another boy in their group. Sam said he wasn’t paranoid, but he wasn’t stupid. He told Wesley that there were times he didn’t want to stay, but he had paid his fees and didn’t like quitting his commitments.
As they disembarked at the bus stop nearest the bridge, Sam asked Wesley if he smoked and offered him a cigarette. The air was a good temperature and there was a light breeze bringing in the smell of salt water. The two men smoked and walked halfway across the monument, the other tourists on the bridge noticeably putting space between themselves and the scruffy-looking pair. They stopped next to one of the suspension towers, leaning on the railing.
Wesley let out a long whistle between his teeth. “Long way down.”
Sam looked at the height. “I saw this movie, documentary about the suicides here. They said a body reaches about seventy-five miles an hour on the way down, when you hit the surface it’s no different than landing on concrete.” The waves were short and slow that day.
Wesley nodded, “Quite a way to go. Body just floats out to sea and that’s all that’s ever heard of you.” Sam couldn’t tell if Wesley’s voice was full of admiration or pity.
Sam quietly replied, “I suppose if you wanted out, it’d be fast enough.” He thumbed his grandfather’s belt buckle some more.
Wesley took a long drag of his cigarette and exhaled, releasing the butt into the wind “So, Sam, you read the bible?”
“Yeah, I kind of have to. It’s part of the whole experience out here, better experience of charity through God.” Sam flicked his ashes off the side and offered Wesley another cigarette, which he took.
Wesley said, “You don’t sound too happy about that,” as Sam lit it for him.
“It wasn’t so bad at first. I wasn’t raised in a religious house. There’s good stuff in the book, good moral principles. But I read different parts of it every day and they don’t always mesh with what I’ve seen out here with what we do with people. There’s a heavy emphasis on the natural order of need, how it falls to every man to understand he is as ‘poor as his poorest neighbor’. That’s mostly Old Testament. I used to really like the New Testament, parts of it still, but the other day I realized something about the story that bothers me a lot. In the New Testament, Jesus is supposed to die. God sends him to earth to shed blood for all the sins of man, right?”
Wesley shrugged saying, “I guess so.”
“And why does he get picked up by the soldiers to be killed? Judas betrays him. The authorities pay Judas these silver things, these Tyrian Shekels to mark his master as a heretic against Rome. Jesus predicted that Judas was going to betray him. Without Judas, no betrayal, no salvation for the legions of Christians that followed. Judas does what he’s supposed to do, and he ends up hanging from a tree and getting gnawed on by Satan for all eternity. And the question I want to ask everyone in that room talking about how much they love Jesus and how much God loves them, is how am I supposed to love a god that damns his own people like that, after his son preaches nothing but temperance?”
Wesley’s speech didn’t falter, “No offense, but the bible and God are two different things. You can believe or not believe in them separately.”
Sam knew and felt that Wesley had torn open the wound that had been worn into his soul every morning at Bible study. Weslet hadn’t done it harshly, or cruelly. It was now time for Sam’s blood to flow. They stepped back away from the railing so a group could take a vacation photo, and Sam continued.
“There’s another story in the New Testament, I’ve been reading it a lot lately.” Sam relayed the story of Jesus talking to the children, the Pharisees, the parable. The declaration of will and action made by the Christian Messiah to the Jewish Elders, separating the second son eternally from the first. Wesley listened intently, and responded as soon as the story was over.
“You think you’re the second son.”
Sam shrugged, and stepped aside “I never promised anybody I’d do anything. So who’s will am I failing to honor?”
Without hesitation Wesley answered, “Only your own.”
Sam was a little stunned. The words floated through him and echoed like the reverberations in the metal under his hands. It seemed like such a simple idea, but it set off a nuclear reaction in his head, igniting every idea, every feeling he’d had for the last three weeks into a bright, burning truth. He asked himself if all he had needed was someone else to say the words he was searching for, if he had just needed someone else to answer his questions for him. “Wesley, I have to say—you seem very sharp for a guy on the street.” Wesley considered this. Sam worried that he had insulted the man. Wesley cocked his head to the side a little and gave a noncommittal smirk.
“I didn’t do anything special for you, Sam, you can only change yourself. You’re not the first person who’s tried to help me. You won’t be the last. But, something about me…I don’t take well to the world Sam. I don’t like it, but that’s how it’ll go, probably for the rest of my life.” Wesley looked Sam in the eye. “You can read right?” Sam nodded. “That’s all you need. Any time I get scared of things, every time I’m completely down and out, which is a lot man, I remember, ‘Hey Wesley, at least you can read.” A pleasant silence passed between the two men on the bridge.
“So why do you think so many people go out through here?” Wesley asked, holding on to the railing and leaning over. He took in the Technicolor water and the sounds of gulls lazily hunting for scraps. Sam looked around, as if the answer might be on one of the plaques adorning the bridge. Maybe, Popular Reasons To End Your Life Here in weathered bronze. His gaze drifted up, and he could feel how tall the pillars of the bridge were, for a second they practically resonated through him, vibrating his body and shaking something loose. He looked back to Wesley, who was looking at him.
“It’s big, and it’s grand…and I guess leaping from it makes you a part of that. For most it’s probably just the speed of it.”
“You ever think it might be the fact that a giant gate reminds them of something?” Wesley laughed at his own joke. Sam looked at his watch. It was getting late by the team’s clock; they’d expect him back at the mission in about an hour and a half. He reached into his wallet and took out seventy-five dollars, handing it over to Wesley.
“Here, take this and spend it on things you need.” Wesley took the money with a confounded look. “I hate to leave you in such a hurry but I’ve got to get back to the mission if I don’t want to get locked out. It’s been nice meeting you Wesley. Take care of yourself.”
“You take care of yourself. Don’t be a stranger, Sam.” Wesley chuckled as he walked away from Sam and toward the bus stop.
Sam faced away from sunset as he walked, and kept walking. He got on the bus and took it back to Oakland. He smoked half of his cigarettes waiting at the stops, almost getting sick. Later that week, Sam left for home, and showers, and clean clothes. He put his bible back on the bookshelf, and didn’t touch it for years to come.
Sam would tell his own stories…
Wesley makes it to Golden Gate Park, by Haight. Some wealthy tourist kids give him a sandwich. He walks into the park where the wannabe hippies share their grass with him, their music, and their stories. Wesley is smiling, and he sleeps in the trees. The cops patrolling don’t see him resting behind hedges. It is warm, and there is no weight on his eyelids as he falls asleep. In the night, he rises.
"Three Cheers for not giving Two Fucks"----Dispatch from several weeks ago, now moderately complete.
Columbia University and its Beats.
Zurich and Dada.
Manchester and Post-Punk.
The nesting grounds of the new world hipster:
Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, enclave of false bohemians and trend junkies surrounding a core of talented creators.
Portland in Oregon, refuge for indie kids scummy and well-off alike from all parts of the northwest, just trying to find home for a while. Some doing a better job than others, many others poisoning the well.
As always, San Francisco, another hive of creators and their attendants.
Through time, every pocket of youth culture has its hub. It was generally assumed that if southern Idaho really had a hub at all, it was Boise. Fair call.
Hip Hip Hooray
Scott’s House is the strongest symptom of the rise of a Caldwell Scene, two words I didn’t think had any place together, neither did anyone else.
The afterbirth of the place is a new, reinvigorated attitude for a small town’s youth culture traditionally defined by its shiftlessness and lack of productive ambition. “Nothing good comes out of Caldwell,” is a little stringent, but for the longest time it wasn’t a stretch to say ‘nothing great’.
On the relative eve of my departure from the burg, I’ve seen the seeds that, grown, will cast shade over that statement and others like it.
Hip Hip Hooray
7 act show. Acts, not bands. A band plays music. These people performed, admirably at that. I’m not the type of guy who throws around phrases like “game-changer”, “salvation of rock music” or “new indie dark horse”, and especially not here. Those evaluations are cheap, shallow, used to instill unnecessary grandeur, and do little to describe the essentiality, fragility, and emotionally visceral mystique of a tremor like this. When a tremor becomes powerful enough, you call it a movement. I can’t see the future, but I see little that stands to stop the acceleration of the Caldwell Scene from becoming what one could easily call a movement. It’s likely a movement to other climes, but the path carved here will open up doors for more and more kids in this area, enabling that most holy of activities, creation. Along with other small town venues, we are seeing the start of a new network of independent artists that if nurtured could reinvent the idea of “scene” for years to come, banking on the principle that it’s the quality and intensity of your culture, not the size or distribution.
On the surface this is no different than most other suburban collectives of hipsters and incidentals having a house party with music. Even rattling a little below the surface that’s still a fairly accurate description of what you find. Many of the attendees are nascent in their social development, only understanding who or what they are as a reflection of others. I saw many people who could be collected into packages of five. That’s kids though, give them time, and give them a chance to grow. Digging deeper, I don’t know if the outside observer has the right kind of light to discover what really lies in the depth without being there, being one of them; us. Yes, I’m still with them.
But, my lack of any real attempt to explain can be summed up as thus:
You don’t undertand.
We don’t understand.
There’s nothing particularly “special” about Caldwell to the outsider’s eye. A perceptive person might call it “unique”, much in the same way as any number of other suburbs of major regional cities have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies that you can’t find in quite the same combination anywhere else.
I digress too much. The show:
I missed the first two, maybe three acts (these are small sets), but I saw a couple of the smaller and one man acoustic acts play. There is a talent and a distinctiveness there.
My own romanticism helped reveal to me the true value of people like the former heroin addict named Gabe, warbling through some pretty fierce interpretations and originals. You need to have an eye for both what is there and hidden, and what is possible given what is present.
I had no idea that I knew the synth player for John E. Combat and The Jungle Fucks. Come to think of it, he had talked to me about it countless times in the past, and when I started hearing about the band, Rex was far too distant from my mind for me to make the connection. Connection is what holds this place together. The lack of an exclusionist attitude so common in larger scenes. More than that, the absolute presence of an idea of inclusiveness. The audience is half the show. The postmodern ownership jive.
I champion the Artists Compact, which is my name for a concept that’s been around since there have been “Scenes”. When someone asks, “Why do you make art?” There is no short answer. Upon committing to crafting something, to “being an artist”, you make a concession that in exchange for people hearing/seeing/watching/feeling what you’re doing, you will in turn do the same for them, eventually creating a self-sustaining society where the “Why” never becomes so important as the “What”. The “Why” is assumed,
Creative minds in this bastard stepchild region pulling equal parts from Seattle, Portland, and the Midwestern drone lifestyle, and god knows where else:
This can be your klaxon. Hear it, and take up arms against the accusations of mediocrity and posing and strike down the voice of “Why” with the power of your “What”. Whatever that is doesn’t matter as long as you fucking mean it, and do it loud, proud and have fun.
Hip Hip Hooray
Overused falsetto. You can’t all be Bon Iver, assholes.
I’m looking at you: Passion Pit (Especially Passion Pit)
Fuck, even Mika brings it down for some contrast once in a while. At this point, I’d rather suffer through Chris Martin than a lot of modern indie bands, and I fucking hate Chris Martin.
Point being, if you’re screeching all the fucking time and not using falsetto in a controlled, or moderated way, it’s not rebellious or creative, or lofty, or heart wrenching. It just sounds like the mutate spawn of Barry Fucking Gibb.
Of course, this is mostly a subset of the larger issue of vocalists who lack character. Every day I hear so many bands that sound exactly the fucking same: “boring”. Droning, ambient tones both in vocals and instruments have to have a meaning, a purpose. Most of what I hear just sounds like purposefully underproduced, pretentious crap and the fanbase tends to confirm this. At least with Hipster music, people know it’s bad. But there are droves of indie style bands that use the genre as a mask for their own mediocrity, and inability to experiment and successfully gauge the results. *grumble*
I have to take solace in the fact that there is still consistently good music being made, in the sea of banal, featureless drivel.
Comment Thread on a friend's suggestion of Stronger gun control in America
Jack Hatch (Mormon):What happened in Tucson is a tragedy that was caused by Loughner not by the Glock he used. I agree that many weapons are overkill, but at the same time people have the right to defend themselves from the those that will choose to do these kinds of things. They also have the right to defend themselves from invasion or oppression from trained police or armed forces. Don't kid yourself into believing such things could never happen here. It happens all the time all over the world. One major reason that it hasn't happened here is that a well armed and similarly armed citizenry is a huge deterent [sic]. I am quite sure that you would not see the oppression you do in many places throughout the world if their citizens were armed and capable of self defense. The cost of freedom is the ability to defend that freedom against the bigger bullies and lunatics in this world. We may not like it, but it is a reality of the world we live in...Banning assult weapons will only get them out of the hands of those that choose to obey the laws. Those that are capable of using such weapons for mayhem such as the events in Tucson will not care about or obey such laws. Research project for you: Tucson and Washington DC are similarly sized cities. Look at the crime rates in both cities and compare them especially when DC banned hand guns... pretty telling data.
"When mores are suffient, laws are unnecessary. When mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable." - sociologist Emile Durkheim. What is needed in this country is a respect for God and self, not unconstitutional controls by well meaning but misguided legislators. I wish my children did not have to live in a world that has these kinds of problems, but until we as a nation and a world humble ourselves and turn back to a hire power, I am afraid that we are only seeing the beginning of man's inhumanity to man. Love Ya!! [directed at my friend]
ME:Ultimately, "a well armed and similarly armed citizenry is NOT a huge deterrent" because The US Government has fighter jets and highly destructive weapons, not to mention a literal army of trained killers at their disposal. If things got bad, it's not hard to see who would win. People who buy weapons "for self defense" tend to be the people involved in the most accidental killings. Then again, I suppose there's always some truth to the idea that those who don't live by the sword can still die by it, but trusting in your police to defend you isn't the worst thing in the world. I can understand having a shotgun in your home for defense of your property, but carrying a handgun with you everywhere just makes you a potential murderer.This nation was founded on the principles of Democracy, and the shared commitment to the preservation of a Republic, not god. True respect for self and this nation as it was intended go hand in hand, and if both are strong, you've the makings of a strong American Citizen. The Constitution only controls what we interpret it to control, which is often unfortunate because the language leaves plenty of room for the wiliest of policymakers to twist the spirit of the Nation.
Jack Hatch:Just keep in mind Denny that this country would not even exist if the citizens that lived here at the time were not armed. That is what keeps our current government from getting totally out of control as well. And don't fool yourself, the founders of this nation had a firm belief in God and they themselves acknowledged his hand in the formation of this country... just read their own words concerning the formation of the constitution and our government.
ME:It's Danny, with an "a", honest mistake. Yes, but it's important to remember that while many things from that era hold true to this day, it was still a more wild time. The world has made incredible strides in human rights, trade, and communications since the 1700s. Violence still remains one of the most potent means of gaining independence, but Americans already got theirs, and defending it should happen in the Democratic process, not at the point of a gun. What keeps our government from getting out of control isn't the people. They're extremely complacent. What keeps the government under control are their hyper-conservative self-serving attitudes. And last time I checked the Nanny-state was pretty rampant, so I'm hesitant to even call them "under control". Don't fool YOURself, most of the other founding fathers were Deists, believing in an uninvolved creator. They served nothing in life but their highly secular ideals of Democritas and Libertas, which came down from the Ancient cultures of Greece and by extension Rome.
Thomas Jefferson produced a version of the Bible specifically bereft of the supernatural because he felt that the Morals and Teachings of Jesus Christ were what mattered, not his purported magic powers.
Hamilton himself was heavily opposed to any organization surrounding the higher ideal of a god:“As to religion a moderate stock will satisfy me. She must believe in god and hate a saint.” Stephen Hopkins, though raised a Quaker would often discuss his theories that within one hundred years, if America had survived, Nationalism would be the overwhelming religion of Americans. And a belief in God didn't necessarily mean an adherence to man's religious doctrine, unless for the sake of public appearance
Benjamin Franklin:As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more respected and better observed; especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in His government of the world with any particular marks of His displeasure.
"I shall only add, respecting myself, that, having experienced the goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, without the smallest conceit of meriting it... I confide that you will not expose me to criticism and censure by publishing any part of this communication to you. I have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments, without reflecting on them for those that appeared to me unsupportable and even absurd. All sects here, and we have a great variety, have experienced my good will in assisting them with subscriptions for building their new places of worship; and, as I never opposed any of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with them all."
ME:So when you say that our Founding Fathers believed in God, I'll bite.
But, this country was founded without a national religion for a reason. Our country exists for men, not gods.
I think your mental instabilities as of late are due to the pain medication. Pain pills, along with a myriad of other harmful side effects, play fun games with your brain chemicals. If my calculations are correct, you've been on the percocet/norco for the last five weeks and not only does that put you at an incredible risk for addiction and all the happy times that come when the bottle's empty, but it would also mean that the drugs have had 5 weeks to drain your brain.
I was having mood swings long before I was on the meds, but I know they’ve probably taken their toll. I’ve only been using them consistently since the surgery, before that it was only when I felt an attack coming on, which happened maybe three times.
I’m not going to get addicted. Even if I do, the fact that I’ll run out of pills and am not stupid enough to spend money on illicit medications will put me into a nice state of withdrawal. As of right now I still spend more time sober than not.
I’m going to wait until the end of the month, when everything has had a chance to either exit my system or draw itself into equilibrium, and reevaluate my situation vis a vis the mood swings.
There is this girl, and every time I think of her, I feel a lot better. The only time I feel better than that is when I’m right next to her, and she’s in my arms. So maybe I just need to remember the good things in my life, because they are so very good.
This is a personal blog, which might seem odd considering the distinct lack of personal posts. It’s my tendency to feel like a douche when I say things about myself that no one asked me for. But I shouldn’t because there’s nothing wrong with it. that’s why we keep journals…something I need to do, starting now. My preliminary entry shall be public.
I got my galbladder out last week. The surgery was tolerable and so was the recovery until I started getting secondary symptoms. In a nutshell, my digestive tract is screwy (expected) and It hurts right after I swallow (definitely unexpected seeing as the pain from the breathing tube had already subsided, this is new). I handle pain well when I know where it’s coming from. When it comes to undiagnosed pain and pain that I don’t know the source of, I’m a fucking hypochondriac. Luckily, I should have a stable amount of pain medicine over the next week so that I’m not crying in my bed instead of going to class and the office like I need to be right now.
This comes as an augmenting complication to the fact that my depression/manic-depression/undiagnosed mental weirdness has started acting up again.
I’m having more inexplicable “downs” lately, and fewer “ups” when I’m on my own.
When she’s around, it’s always an up. Whether you know her or not, my girlfriend has been one of my best friends in college, and has been an immeasurably positive presence in my life, and it makes me feel good to know that she’ll be around, and at least then, I’ll be up.
Insert obvious erection jokes, and moving on.
After business with my tummy is sorted out, I’m going to face down the decision of whether or not to seek a professional diagnosis for emotional problems. If any of you have input on the merits of psychiatric evaluation/help, please feel free to submit them via the question box or the submission portal on the right.
NULC submission fast approaching, and my submission is sub par. But the fifteenth is the day, and I’m submitting, because if I get in I want to retain my chances of being published in Metaphor. I will post a full version of my story to this page when it’s finished.
Literally the one thing you have to do in this world to be on the side of good is make sure that you aren’t ignorant. It’s not hard, but it does require a little bit of unselfish effort, which is why most people fail. Their only advocacy is themselves. If they had the ability to care about something beyond their own ass, they would. It is entirely as simple as that. You can’t fight them, you can’t stop them, that’s why things like Fox News and Glenn Beck.
So stop worrying about it. Yes, they’re stupid, and evil, and the reason we’re in such a mess. But you can only control yourself, and if you’re a good person that means you won’t take advantage of the people who let themselves be controlled. Unfortunately this leaves those blank, mushy masses at the mercy of people who will take advantage of them. So be it. They will destroy the planet, and they’ll be crying to their god to save them the whole way down.
Meanwhile we’ll be having a kickass party.
Champagne and dancers, baby. All the way to Kingdom Come.
Don't you ever get tired of being a cynic? I mean, wouldn't it be easier if we could just empathize and be like everyone else?
I do apologize that it took me so long, but I wanted to give a complete, thought-out answer and I’ve been busy organizing my life around a surgery.
"Don’t you ever get tired of being a cynic? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier if we could just empathize and be like everyone else?"
Short answer, “No.” to the first. Your second question is deeply flawed.
The answer to the first question:
I get tired, not of being a cynic, but because there are so many reasons to be cynical in our world and it can be exhausting for someone who takes the time and energy to respond to them with a critical eye. They never stop coming. The alternative of a cynical response to the world around me however, is undesirable and in most ways ignorant. Mama didn’t raise no Pollyanna.
Just to make sure that this actually responds to the question, there are some semantics to discuss.
Don’t mistake cynicism for pessimism, they’re two distinct attitudes. Most pessimism is just as ignorant as optimism.
Cynicism asks questions that need to be asked of society.
Moreover these are questions that are prompted by the things society does. They aren’t just jibes for the sake of pithy judgement. They come from a real place of honest observation, and the desire for things to change.
The answer to the second question:
I assume that your “we” isn’t the grossly condescending usage that some doctors use (We won’t be smoking anymore, will we Mr. Henson?), but that you actually consider yourself to be cynical enough of the time to use the word for myself as well as yourself. This makes me wonder whether you think that you feel tired of being a cynic, when in reality you’re not tired of yourself but of the world you live in.
As for “everyone else”, I really want to know where this overwhelming population of shiny happy people resides, and how they got this far in life being so ignorant. The truth is, there is no “everyone else”, because there is no cut and dry dividing line between people anywhere. There are different types of human being, different shades of cynical, different shades of black, gay, man, woman, nice, honest, thief, beautiful, funny, loving, spiteful, etc. and all of these things are complimented and contrasted by each other. We’re all different paintings that use the same color wheel. “Everyone else” is this abstract concept we have in our minds to create a vague, palpable alternative to the truth that there are more than 7 billion people out there just as complex and fucked up as we are in different ways, and to settle the desire we have to think that there’s no way the majority of people are as dissatisfied as we are.
Oh my dear, are they ever.
There is no “everyone else”. There is no “standard variety” of human being. There are tendencies we share, some that ALL of us share. No two people will manage or respond to those tendencies, whether in themselves or in others, the same way.
The world is a harsh place full of terrible things and terrible people to do them. This leads to dissatisfaction. People fill it with things like drugs, religion, other people’s art, possessions, sex, superficial relationships, false identities, betrayal and all manner of other things that man does out of self-dissatisfaction. It takes a lot of people a very long time before they get to the point where they counter their dissatisfaction by using their own creative thinking and most never get there. They spend their lives in different shells, afraid to crawl out and look at themselves for what they are and try to improve that. Instead they slap on new trends, borrowed ideas, and whatever blend of contrarian/conformist beliefs makes them feel like they’re their own person.
But in those instants where humans become frighteningly, blissfully aware of their relative position in the universe and we DON’T respond to out fear with reckless emotional band-aids, we are capable of some extraordinary things. Compassion. Honestly. Selflessness. Exploration of the self and the world. Our better nature.
Don’t think for a second that I can’t or don’t empathize. Putting the word “just” in front of that action makes it seem like an easy one, and it isn’t. My empathy might not look like your empathy, or your conception of empathy, because my empathy comes with a blunt honesty. I’ll tell you I feel bad that your relationship didn’t work out. Then I’ll tell you full well why it didn’t. I’ll acknowledge that you’re scared of death and that I could understand why you would want Jesus to take away that fear. Then I’ll tell you why that’s childish, stupid, and demeaning to your own potential and importance as a human being. There are times when people don’t want that. Chances are, if you’re important to me, I’ll hold my tongue on the candor and be just what you want me to be for a while: a friendly friend before I’m an honest one.
So why choose cynicism?
I don’t think we’re getting worse as a society. I don’t think we’re getting better. I think we’ve always been a hunk of gold wrapped in piles of shit. Cynicism is my shit-shovel, and I prefer it to the blunt spoon of naive, self-indulgent, willful ignorance. Plus it came with free gloves.
Cynicism is the only way to respond intelligently and potently to a world like ours.
Now, here on this blog my itch of choice is religion and the American-Christian complex. However, I hate religion like I hate the nausea that comes with a bad flu. It’s a symptom of a deeper more permanent problem that I remain relatively powerless over, save resting, preserving my strength, and outlasting it. One of us will die eventually. Until then I’ll just defer to Jung, who posited that experiencing religion was a necessary component in maturation and self-identification of the individual, occurring naturally in all people in one form or another. I respect that. I don’t respect a person who believes in myth as fact and allows myth to fundamentally shape the way they impact other people, the way only facts should (for brevity, we’ll just call a fact something that has been repeatedly demonstrated and has yet to be disproven). At some point, people must grow up and face reality otherwise they risk contributing to human suffering by the narrowness of their beliefs. Moreover they limit the way they could experience the universe, which is the real tragedy. Assuming an unknowable answer prevents you from asking questions, important questions like those that inquire as to the nature of the universe. Ignorance is only bliss for the ignorant. For those seeking knowledge it’s the devil. So in direct response to the second part of your question, I suppose it might be easier to be complacent. It would also be easier to shit our pants instead of getting up and going to the bathroom.
Happy New Year.
*If this was in specific response to my posts here (why wouldn’t it be, for all I know we’ve never met), reread some of the recent ones. Most of them end on a lighthearted note.
If this failed to adequately answer your question, just ask some more.