In service to the writing gods, otherwise known as “the practice necessary to look myself in the mirror and not see a bust of Henry Miller laughing back at me”, I am pulling back out the old novel instead of starting fresh.
Leaving a project at 99% has got to be the dumbest of all the consistent artistic pitfalls we fall prey to. When the relics are best left as such on the shelf, it is fine to call them experiments, one-off’s and curiosities best left for anecdotes over late-night scotches. But when they keep coming back to nibble at the side corner of your dreams, there’s a high percentage chance they are still asking to be worked on.
Here’s to that. One hour is what I can give today. And I’m putting that into my iPhone and hitting "GO" now…
My intention was not to fall asleep at all. But I was infected with Vegas, filled with its ridiculousness. And I was three quarters into an oversized pint of Johnny Walker Red and just coming back from having a joint outside on the street and eventually wandering (or was it escaping?) out to the only place I felt safe, the grassy area beneath the tall hotel street sign.
But I did fall asleep; and woke confused to my alarm an hour later. And at 6AM I put on my coat and kissed her goodbye and stumbled out into the fluorescent hallway, dragging my luggage behind me. In the taxi on the way to the airport, I ate in desperation the other half of a leftover 1AM club sandwich purchased in the all night American Diner- her last hurrah, but not mine.
And then struggling to the gate. At least check-in was easy and clear.
I get round then into the cattle call and spot the machine. The millimeter microwave scanner. Otherwise known as "The Penis & Titty Cam". The giant, imposing thing that looks like a portable gassing station for a lot of very well justified reasons.
And I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, or a liberal, or anything thereafter in between, but personally I like to trust the large number of the world’s preeminent scientists when they draft a minimum of two letters to US Science Advisor, John Holdren, to halt the use of these machines until further testing is done. What I am not inclined to trust is a political agenda.
So I see that there’s two lines, one for the regular metal detector on the left and one for the millimeter panic machine at right. I maneuver it just so, hesitate a moment while the person ahead of me moves forward, and shuffle forward into the left hand lane. But at the very last minute, after I’ve de-shoed, and my tubs are filled with open laptop and the contents of my pocket, she looks at me and tells me to go to the right: to the other machine, the millimeter wave. I jump. My gut sinks. On looking back, I have to laugh, because my first reaction is to act completely guilty, saying, “No, I want to go through that one,” and trying to push through to the traditional metal detector.
She rises to meet me, to block my passage with her hand. Her gaze, too, changes. I’m glad I got to see that. The flexing of some muscle, even in this woman- especially in this woman!- the result of: training, or empowerment, or the true nature of the threat these people do indeed face everyday? Because god knows I wouldn’t want their job.
Suddenly, her partner, a black woman who is working the other machine, is stepping in on my right.
"Sir," she’s saying, "Sir, please come over here and go through this machine as the other TSA agent has instructed."
"No," I keep saying, "I wan’t to go through this machine."
"Sir, you have to follow the instructions of my fellow TSA agent. You cannot go that way."
"Sir, you CAN’T go this way. SIR!"
Until finally, I say- like speaking the magic words- “I’d like to opt out.” And it’s as if time has stopped. They wind down. Back up. “That’s exactly what we needed to hear,” the black woman says.
"We got a Manual over here," she shouts. "Can I get a Manual over here at C5?"
They speak into walkie-talkies, the line backs up like a snag in a rope. They take my luggage, walk me through the proper metal detector anyway. People are grumbling, and I am absolutely not looking back, lest I greet that kind of negativity in my hungover state. I just want to get on the plane, to my family vacation, and hope to find the least uncomfortable position to fold myself into for a two hour crashout. But now I’ve become a ‘Manual’.
I am led to an unused scanner lane and told we will wait here for another agent, this one a small Filipino man who soon approaches. “How you doing?” the first agent says, stepping back. The Filipino man is donning latex gloves beside me.
"You all good here?" says the first one.
"I’m all good," the second says, stepping in, snapping the gloves tight as he speaks this appropriated phrase. "Okay," his voice rings, slightly sonorous in a way that makes the encounter all the more surreal. "Okay, here first I will ask you to spread your arms."
Other traverlers are passing through the lanes. I’m looking back at the ones looking at me, at the line of near parishioners attendant to that despicable machine.
I don’t like it.
"Okay, I am looking at your arms now." He’s sweeping them. "I am moving onto your torso. Okay. Okay." He’s moving about my waist, feeling my waistband in and out. "Okay. I’m going to be sweeping the thigh now,” he says, and I know that that is straight out of some training manual:
"Sweeping the thigh…"
"Moving on," he says, afterwards. He clears one leg at a time. Once he’s done with the right, he works his way up the left until one more round of "Sweeping the thigh. Okay. Sweeping. The. Thigh" His hand is going up and down my leg. Me: hungover, tired, waiting just to plop down into that airplane seat.
Soon he is finished. My things have been brought over. I am allowed to dress at my own pace, refitting the brace I have on my wrist, and slowly tying my shoes.
You go, get drunk, dance your head off, and when you’re ready to fly out, you get your balls felt up right before you board the airplane.
What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas?!
Yet they have not embarrassed me, as was (perhaps only arguably) their intention. And I didn’t have go through that fucking sketchy ass machine- which was certainly mine.
I still feel it there, in the back of my mind: “Sweeping the thigh. Okay… Just here now: sweeping. sweeping. sweeping the thigh…”
A few nights ago we watched a show on bizarre animal friendships; an elephant and a sheep dog, a lioness and the ibex cub she adopted as her own, a lion, a tiger and a bear formerly the property of one Atlanta drug lord. The show’s theme was the universal bond that we form in childhood with those around us, despite a difference of species, or even being born what would normally in the wild be considered mortal enemies, the predator lying down with the prey.
Sitting in a warm alpine house with my closest family up here in this ski town at the top of the world, after months in the crushing city, with friends and a lover but no vision, no breadth, no space to remember just what has always made your life your own, now suddenly I can feel again the deep and nurturing power of such a bond.
The bushmen say a man must have four things to keep himself happy: his health, his family, a roof over their heads, and the ability to procreate. I would add that a rewarding career, which breeds in you a belief in yourself, should also be a priority, if only for one’s own mental health and the value in adding something creative to the universe. But, ultimately, this is secondary if the four above are not met.
This family vacation came together just after Thanksgiving. We had talked about it a year prior, but nothing firm had been set in stone. Over the course of this past year, I moved out of the apartment I had shared for four years with my now ex-wife, into a house with two younger grad students. I found myself engaging again with my job only to be let go just as I was finding enjoyment in building a Wordpress blog from scratch. And now here I am moving in with my current girlfriend, hoping only that things will be better this time round.
But it was sitting around in the living room in our pajamas, with the Christmas football game on in the background that finally felt right. Sitting with those I care about, reconnected to the source, and realizing its severe and penultimate importance.
We ignore this truth at our peril. Because then it becomes a case of seeking substitution, attributing to someone somewhere that is not your world center, the energy you should be devoting to those who matter most to you in this world turn round of the wheel.
Sure, some of us aren’t lucky enough to have a family that is tolerable beyond the barest of obligatory seasonal interactions. We attend holiday events like I grew up attending church, once a year and with severe trepidation. But this is who we’re stuck with, and that’s not ever going to change.
We can gird ourselves with friendships, to help us weather the family storms, but it’s those we’re blood related to that leave us feeling numb at 3AM, or warm and cozy just the same.
It’s not easy to explain just why that is. But somehow it is both the only thing that will suffice in the entire universe, and a simple “that’s all it takes?”
The peace of doing nothing for a day but watching TV and eating omelettes.
Here’s a challenge that I’m going to give myself and everyone else:
• Drop one estranged family member a postcard in the mail before the 4th of July. Then just sit back, drink your martini, and wait. I’ll be curious to see what happens.
I think it was Hunter S Thompson that said the American Dream is alive and well in Las Vegas, NV. That’s why it reminds one so much of a giant video game stage, with you as the Jedi Space Marine abandoned on a distant planet of wanton bestiality and an overgrown consumer reflex, ready and waiting at any moment for a horde of zombies or a mutant dog beast to come lumbering around the vacant corner of these giant conference complexes.
They used to have it at the MGM Grand that you walked through the mouth of a lion to get inside the casino. This turned out to be an offensive and unpalatable experience for many of the Chinese tourists, of which the Strip relies on heavily. And so the facade was remodeled to have a normal front door and a lion merely to the side. Imposing, but not directly, and unluckily, consuming.
What is it about Las Vegas that calls to mind this quote by the old mad bastard genius? It’s the raw pursuit of the experience above everything, above humanity, above convenience, and even sometimes above even fiscal sanity.
Donnie and Marie are still playing every Tuesday night at the Flamingo. And for some reason there’s an over abundance of all things Australian as far as other entertainment choices are concerned.
Things are not built for the human stage in Las Vegas, they are built for some archeology project of the future, that seeks to uncover and try somehow to make sense of this odd, outsized dream that we once claimed solely as our territory but which we have now realized bears international, and universal, provenance.
That Old Book Smell…
Crab Fishermen United in Strike;
Crabs Pretty Cool with That Too…
I wrote about this in the 2004 season, and glad to see even the rogue fisherman John Dooley, who defied the strikers and set off on his own that year, has come round and is holding firm with the rest. If there is any lesson to be learned, it’s that if you speak with one voice you will be heard. It might take awhile, and you may piss off some holiday crab feasters, but pretty soon someone will relent.
Think of it. I have never been crabbing, but I imagine that here in the Bay, while not something straight out of Alaska’s Deadliest Catch, it is still hard work. What would you say to someone who refused to pay you $2.50 per pound for your trouble?
At a certain point, we have to put value on our labor, or soon enough half of us are going to be working for free while the other half aren’t working at all…
FROM FRANK MILLER’S BLOG
The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.
“Occupy” is nothing short of a clumsy, poorly-expressed attempt at anarchy, to the extent that the “movement” – HAH! Some “movement”, except if the word “bowel” is attached - is anything more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.
And a Poop Snot Fart to you too, Mr. Miller…
Because it’s not just the hippies camping out in the park squares. They are like the breastplates. And because they have to be strong they’re also a bit slow, like a turtle, they like to juggle, some of them just don’t where else to go, for sure, and why not join a circus if there’s good food and you got nothing better to do? But reactionary commentary like the above by Frank Miller, for whose work I have great respect, serves no purpose. It reeks something tortuous of the spastic rite of cable television news. Bitter acid with no soul, just stirring up spite to poison the well. And for what reason?
Give us public health insurance, and we’ll start to quiet down, but not by much. Give us good schools, great retirement, a sound, well-funded university and trade school system that’s tightly intertwined with the business of getting you hired into good jobs, and give us fairness, and a system wherein those who have more contribute a bit more, not the other way around. And then maybe, just maybe, we’ll begin to quiet down.
FOLLOW UP: An excellent rebuttal to Miller’s Red Bull American Fascism coctail is to be found on Scott Wilson’s Scott’s Introspection Section blog, the entry titled: "Frank Miller Embraces His Inner Fascist, Declares War on The Occupy Movement”.
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch.
“Each of us has a primary love language,” Dr. Chapman said, and often secondary or tertiary ones. To help identify your language, he recommended focusing on the way you most frequently express love. What you give is often what you crave. Challenges in relationships arise because people tend to be attracted to their opposites, he said. “In a marriage, almost never do a husband and wife have the same language. The key is we have to learn to speak the language of the other person.”
Practical talk about sex from a man America can’t afford to ignore. And he’s a preacher from the South.
More Great Books: George Saunders on Slaughterhouse Five
Vonnegut was using his Terrible Event to explore ways of continuing to
remain kind in spite of Terrible Events.
more on what makes a great writer, and the usage of poor man’s english in real man’s literature…
Many of the protesters have retreated to Zuccotti Park this afternoon. The atmosphere is festive with drumming and dancing. But we found Stephen Patti, an 85-year-old World War II vet, sitting at one of the park’s tables. He was wearing an American Legion hat and a serious look on his face. …
“The war is over,” said Patti. “It’s time to negotiate.”
What he means, he said, is that the Occupy Movement has refocused the conversation in the country. It’s brought income inequality to the public discourse, so Patti said the time has come to issue a set of demands, sit down with government, with Wall Street and find a way to close that gap and bring better paying jobs to more people, instead of handing out massive bonuses to a few CEOs.
“You gotta sit down,” he said. “People get tired of this when it disrupts their life. Now is the time to negotiate.”
how that is sometimes
you get so busy doing other things
and when you finally get to what you’ve been looking forward to all day
suddenly you don’t have the taste for it,
and you find yourself googling questions about your new iphone instead of putting in the time on the movie script
but no hail marys
just remember it’s your funeral
via the NY Times:
BEIJING — In the days since the Chinese government delivered a punitive $2.4 million tax bill to the artist Ai Weiwei, thousands of people have responded by contributing money in a gesture that is at once benevolent and subversive.
More than 20,000 people have together contributed at least $840,000 since Tuesday, when tax officials gave Mr. Ai 15 days to come up with an amount that was more than three times the sum he was accused of evading in taxes.
“It’s surprising; it has really changed my perspective on people,” he said in a telephone interview on Sunday, describing how scores of supporters, some of whom traveled from distant cities, have been delivering cash to his home.
(via Brain Pickings)
'Donald John Mackenzie, one of the younger weavers, tried a number of careers before he thought he would have a go at this one. He likes the fact that weaving is a regular commitment and you know what salary you will achieve if you work a full week. He has a small croft and has written for the local community about the weaving process.'
And for those unaware:
Harris Tweed is a unique fabric hand-woven by the islanders on Scotland’s Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist, and Barra, using local wool and vegetable dyes. Despite its rustic roots, this unusual cloth has risen to international fame, appearing as anything from a premium finish on limited-edition Nike shoes to the attire of choice for celebrated fictional characters like Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, the Doctor from Doctor Who, and Agatha Christie’s detective Miss Marple. Known for its distinctive flecks of color and peculiar scent, produced by the lichen dyes known as “crottle,” Harris Tweed is as much a material as it is a fascinating story about tradition, community, collaboration, and heritage.
Indeed, what writer’s wardrobe would be be complete without a harris tweed cardigan with leather elbow patches?
This is a rhetorical question. The answer is none, clearly.
Halloween afterthoughts via Wikipedia…