October 31, 2013 § 1 Comment
Wrote this a few years back. The site it was on seems to be down, so I’m reposting it here. Consider it a Halloween present.
October 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m about to resort to a device I often dislike to make a point – I’m going to share an incident from my life. I dislike doing this both because I dislike reliving it, and because I dislike resorting to anecdote. But here we go.
After my mother died, I ended up living alone for several years. I worked odd jobs – I was a terrible carpenter, a poor to middling day laborer, a bouncer in a bar that was always on the verge of being shut down. I worked in a bookstore. I was not particularly well paid for any of these tasks, and I was attending college, so I had pretty substantial expenses – textbooks, tuition, rent, utilities. As a result, I was often in a situation where I had twenty dollars to buy food for an entire month. It was 1991 – the dollar had more spending power than it does now, admittedly, but not so much that you could buy enough food to live for a month with a twenty.
As a result, I often did not eat. There simply wasn’t any money for me to do so. I lost well over sixty pounds one semester – I lost so much weight that when my stepmother came to visit me for some reason, she did not recognize me. Of course, rumors of my being on drugs surfaced to explain the rapid change in my physique and mental state – my mother had died fairly recently, and I’d clearly gone over the edge. It was simply beyond people’s ability to understand that, working minimum wage jobs and whatever crappy under the table work I could scrape up simply wasn’t enough money to cover the necessities of life, and that the constant starvation (you try losing sixty pounds in four months) was far more debilitating than any drug habit I might have wished I had.
If not for a kind teacher who began slipping me money – a five here, a ten there – and buying me food at random moments, I doubt I would have made it through college. He didn’t ask me what was going on, or try and make any judgments about my moral foundation or why I was clearly not doing well. He simply helped me, with nothing in it for him and no chance I’d ever be able to repay him. I never gave him anything.
One week he showed up at my door with two loaves of bread and a huge jar of peanut butter. That was it. It cost him less than five bucks. And if he’d asked, I’d probably have broken someone’s neck in return. He never asked for anything, though.
My point in all of this is that my own family looked for blame. Something was at fault – the idea that I was simply laboring under an unfair system was never even considered. I had to be on drugs or messed up over my mom’s death, because those were causes – you could nod sagaciously at them, and say aha and then walk away. If I were on drugs, well, one might argue that you could get me an intervention but if you chose to just walk away (as they all did) then that was understandable. You can only do so much, after all.
We do this with misfortune and suffering because the alternative is to be aware of how fragile our own position is – at any moment, everything you have and everything you love can be imperiled, your possessions gone, your loved ones taken from you. Your very life is a transitory moment suspended between vast gulfs we are entirely ignorant of – you do not know if you existed before your birth, and you cannot know if you will continue past your death. To accept this fragility is daunting enough – to recognize that everything you may succeed in accomplishing in your life was as much the result of happy coincidences and societal forces as it was your own labor prevents one from even the momentary comfort of the delusion of self-sufficiency. We assign blame and look for fault in order to convince ourselves that we can somehow control the randomness of our day to day lives.
No one deserves it. No one did anything to cause it save those that did it. The only question you should ask is “can I help” and if you’re not willing to do that, then at least don’t make it worse. The pain of another isn’t your cue to go into post-mortem mode, looking over their lives and their choices like the scouts on Monday morning going over the big football game to see how we lost.
Poor people don’t deserve it. The victims of violent crime didn’t do anything to justify it. There’s no magic path through life that you can discover and use to avoid it.
October 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I don’t pretend that I believe everything I remember. I mean, I remember it – but I also know that I have many, many reasons to lie to myself. Much of my memories are constructed from stories others told me, or remembered through a haze of chemical abuse quite vast for a person to have survived. There was also quite a lot of physical trauma, including head wounds, at least one case of a fractured skull that wasn’t treated at the time, and a few concussions.
But the real truth is, I lie to myself because to look at the truth, to try and remember things as they were, is agony. Not hyperbolic agony, not the agony we write poems about when we’re callow, just a deep and abiding pain that will not recede and must be suppressed, walled over, buried at any and all costs. I have lost too much and mourned too often to gladly remember. And so, I have my half-true stories, which I tell in place of facts, because it’s easier.
Here is one of them.
September 9, 2013 § 2 Comments
Yeah, I listen to In Flames. I know I’m probably too old and should just listen to 90′s alternative stations on the radio and complain about kids today. (Truth be told, my biggest problem with kids today is how conservative you all are. Seriously.) Anyway, today’s post is about suicide.
Yes, I am a very cheerful sort. If reading about this topic (and I’m planning on being frank) is too disturbing for you then you may want to not read this.
Suicide is one of those topics that, even if you’ve been there you can have a hard time understand it, much less explicating it. There are many different kinds of suicide and many different reasons for it – it’s hard to compare the suicide of a teenager being bullied with that of a person with a terminal illness, and those are just two examples. So all I can really do is explicate what suicide means to me, and why I’m uncomfortable with how our society deals with both those that commit suicide and those that attempt it but survive.
I’m using myself as an example here, because all I can do is use my own experiences. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I never met my maternal grandfather – he died before I was born. So I’ve really only got my father’s father in my memory, and he was an interesting person. Far more accomplished than I’ll ever be (he was a plastic surgeon) and somewhat detached, emotionally. His relationship with my father was what you could call rocky, in much the same way that England and France’s relationship was rocky during the reign of Henry V. And yes, that was the best I could do for a metaphor.
For whatever reason, he liked me. Perhaps because I was his only grandchild. Perhaps because it made my mother uncomfortable whenever he visited. Understand, my mother was practically fearless – she would, could and did often start huge disturbances in public over anything that bothered or concerned her. She would tell cops right to their faces to back off, and they would. So when I say he made her uncomfortable what I’m really saying is His complete emotional detachment to everyone in the world terrified her because it meant she couldn’t win an argument with him. He barely cared what his own son thought, much less the woman that he’d married, and it was only exacerbated by the fact that my grandfather was the one who’d repaired my mother’s hand after a fireworks accident nearly ruined it – you couldn’t even tell, years later, that she’d had something explode in her palm and blow the skin off of the fingers.
But as I said, he liked me. Even loved me, in a way – he would pick me up on his lap and give me this bristly kiss on the forehead and rub my head absently while he talked. Even as I reached the age to be too big for him to do this, he would anyway – by the time of his death, around my eighth year, he was so frail it was a significant effort on his part to lift me. His limbs would tremble with the exertion. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
I challenge you to come up with more than one funny dead baby joke.
I mean, really funny. Not a smirk raiser. Not a “aren’t we so cheeky, telling this awful joke” crooked grin. An actual knee slappingly funny joke about dead babies. One that doesn’t depend entirely on the fact of dead babies to try and push some kind of social outrage button, a well structured piece of comedy involving dead babies as an integral part of the joke.