Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tell Them Robin Sent You


I nearly wrote this very lengthy post, an essay really, about what Robin Williams meant to me and the impact he had on my life.


I talked about how when I was a child and sitting home alone all day while my parents were at work, my two best friends were my dog and Mork (thanks to back to back episodes shown in syndication.)


Nanu nanu.


You cannot begin to fathom the impact of Dead Poets Society on my life, how many different formats I’ve owned that film, or how many times I’ve seen it. It lead me to so many good and perfect things. Least of which, I can quote a number of Whitman poems thanks to that movie. Every summer when the blooms on our lilac bush die, I stand on the front porch with the dog and recite the first stanza to one of Uncle Walt's poems:


When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, 
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, 
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring, 
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west, 
And thought of him I love.


Good Will Hunting is the same.


When the lovely wife’s eyes started getting really bad, we sat down and watched a number of movies together that meant a lot to us. One of them was Good Will Hunting. The thing that really struck me on that rewatch, especially now being an adult going through the beginning of a crisis of my own, now no longer a teenager who connected with Matt Damon or Ben Affleck’s characters, was how moved I was by Robin’s performance as Will’s therapist. The “I will end you” scene floored me.


I wrote about all that in great detail.


Then deleted it for the beginning of a very angry post about the people who’ve felt the need to either be dismissive or say nasty, hurtful things. But I deleted that too. They don’t deserve the satisfaction. We currently live under the tyrrany of petty and ignorant men, but that will change. Let them stew in their chosen misery and turn your face away from their offered cup of bitterness. Some day they too will have a moment of awareness and see, as their lives draw to a close, how they will soon sink beneath a dark and lonely ocean of tears to be forgotten.

(And that's something else too, if I can take a moment. Journalism is mostly dead. So in the days to come you will see the ghouls on the march, hoping to join the trolls. The buzzards have already circled. Ignore them. Don't click. Don't share. Don't listen. You do not have to engage.)


The whole time I struggled with what I wanted to write, I kept thinking about Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem Richard Cory. And I think that’s something to remember. How sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about other people can be just as deceitful and unhelpful as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.


But even that somehow feels too dark, I think.


For me, the thing I keep reading that sticks out in my mind, the thing I want to keep hold of is how many times Robin went out of his way to cheer people up when they were sad or suffering or even just nervous. That’s a fucking legacy right there. It doesn’t need any eloquence to prop it up, it doesn’t require any spirituality, it just is. On the most basic human level, it's fucking gobsmackingly beautiful. It's something anyone could and should be proud of, cold hearted internet sonsofbitches be damned.


So that’s what I think you should do, if you want to honor Robin. Don’t be sad. Don’t even sit at home and watch a marathon of his films. Don’t share some motto or meme or phone number. Go connect with another human being right now. I guarantee you that you know someone who is depressed or sad or suffering or worried or nervous or frightened or even just lonely. When was the last time you spoke to them? When was the last time you made them laugh? Reminded them that you cared? Now's a good time. Right now. Go. Call them up. Knock on their door. And when they answer, tell them, “Robin sent me.”

Nanu nanu.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Dirty World Full of Dirty People




I’m a longtime John D. MacDonald fan, honestly still in awe of the quality of his prodigious output. Years ago, coming out of a lengthy Travis McGee bender, I read The Red Hot Typewriter: The Life and Times of John D. MacDonald by Hugh Merrill.


Starting at the bottom of page 71, Merrill reprints a funny spoof of Mickey Spillane that JDM sent Dick Carroll, his editor at Gold Medal, following their publication of The Brass Cupcake:


"It was one of those afternoons when the greasy sunshine flooded Third Avenue like a men’s room with a broken john. She came out of the alley lapping at her juicy red lips with her pointed spicy tongue.


I shouldered her out of the way and blew the smoke off of the end of the rod. He lay there in the alley and he was dead. I don’t know why I did it but I aimed at him and blew off the other half of his greasy skull. It was a dirty world full of dirty people and I was sick of it. I felt the crazy anger welling up in me. He lay there in the alley and he was dead. She rubbed her thorax against me. I blasted his teeth out through the back of his neck.


Pat shouldered her out of the way. He was picking his greasy teeth with a broken match. A smart cop, that Pat.


'I knew you was going to go kill crazy again, Mike. This has got to stop.'


I knew it couldn’t stop. Not while there were people left in the world. Dirty people in a dirty world. I had to kill all that I could. Even if they lifted my license. He lay there in the greasy alley in the greasy Third Avenue sunshine and he was dead and I was glad I’d shot his greasy skull apart.


'Mike, Mike,' she gasped, stabbing her tongue into my ear. It tickled.


I fingered her haunch, then shoved her away hard. She looked at me with those wide, spicy hot eyes.


'You haven’t fooled me a bit,' I rasped. Then I laughed. My laugh sounded like two Buicks rubbing together.


She knew what I meant. She said, 'Look what I can give you, Mike.' She unlatched her Maidenform.


I looked at it. I felt the sadness, the regret. But the anger was there. Pat sucked on the greasy match. He turned his head. He was a good cop.


The first shot nailed her against the alley wall. While she was slipping, her eyes still pleading with me, I wrote my initials across her gut with hot lead. It was tricky shooting.


Pat sighed. He said, 'Mike, the D.A.’ll have something to say about this.'


'Screw the D.A.,' I said. My voice sounded like a lead nickel in a stone jukebox.


We walked out of the alley, down through the soggy sunshine. Somehow, I felt very tired."


See. It’s funny, right? I thought so then, and still think so now. Though it's also a little sad that the genre is still overrun with prose and thought that still amounts to: “a dirty world full of dirty people…”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

That Kind of Disappointment


I remember vividly when I was in elementary school going to music class. Twice a week or so, we’d gather around Mrs. Perry’s piano to be instructed on the basics of music, sing songs like "America the Beautiful" and "Oh! Susanna," or learn to play the recorder.

I can still fumble through a yowling-cat-in-heat version of "Hot Crossed Buns."

But I really really liked going to music class when I was a kid. My brother Nathan was killed in a car accident when I was in kindergarten. I also have a cleft palate so I spent most of my early school years attending some form of speech therapy. Music class was one of the things I looked forward to the most in elementary school. It made a very unpleasant time just a little more bearable.

I think that’s one of the reasons it stung so badly years later when I learned that they taught us a censored version of Woody Guthrie’s "This Land Is Your Land." When I heard it much later, I understand immediately why.

Yet, understanding never quite fixes that kind of disappointment.

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie



This land is your land, this land is my land.
From California to the New York island,
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway,
I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway.
Nobody living can ever make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Don't Make Fun of Him, Be Appalled


So many things annoy the hell out of me about Gov. Perry and his bullshit photo ops with machine guns at the border.


First, let's be honest, the Border Crisis he keeps talking about is in reference to children. He’s got the National Guard staked out at the border to stop children from crossing. Yes, I know he’s given some bullshit about how all these resources being diverted to dealing with the children are allowing some Invasion U.S.A. style influx of criminal aliens, but it’s just that--bullshit. He's hoping if he repeats it often enough, you'll forget this is all really about kids and just remember him saving us from evil foreigners like this is the mid-80s and he's Chuck Norris. It’s all a shell game to portray what should be a no-brainer bipartisan response to a humanitarian crisis as the lax liberal policies of the Obama Administration contributing to the disintegration of this country. Just like the pictures of him with military weapons at the border, it’s bullshit PR for his 2016 Presidential run we all know we’re going to have to suffer through.  


And let’s talk about the children at the border who've endured a hell you cannot even fathom to make it this far. The bulk of them are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.  Honduras has the world’s highest homicide rate, El Salvador isn’t far behind, and all three countries are incredibly impoverished with "30% of Hondurans, 17% of Salvadorans, and 26 % of Guatemalans living on less than $2 a day."


You spent more at Starbucks this morning.


What else do those countries have in common? Every single one is a victim of America’s terrible foreign policy. Just take a look at the WikiLeaks documents about US support for the 2009 coup in Honduras. Or spend five minutes reading about The Salvadoran Civil War. Or maybe the US backed 1954 Guatemalan Coup that sparked the Guatemalan Civil War.

This is what he's capitalizing on. Poor children from Central American countries who've sufffered a great many terrible things due to our meddling. Don’t make fun of Rick Perry, be goddamned appalled. Seriously. Be appalled.

Oh, and fuck that guy. Seriously, fuck that guy. Repeat that until you remember it. We've got a long time until November 2016.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Pretty Deadly


Pretty Deadly is a creator-owned comic series from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios.

And it’s amazing.

Fucking seriously. I’m not going to bother with some fancy write-up because I couldn’t do the comic justice. Pretty Deadly is a beautiful, violent, magical realism, manga spaghetti western. A mythic, glorious story with breath-catching prose and artwork I want tattooed on my bare arm.

Highly, highly recommended.

Friday, July 18, 2014

To Each Their Own Till We Go Home


I heard “Turtles All The Way Down” by Sturgil Simpson again this morning. Even if country music hadn’t died under a corporate bootheel and now lives only vegetable existence thanks to twangy, second-rate pop singers, this would still be a kind of perfection.



TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN
I've seen Jesus play with flames in a lake of fire that I was standing in
Met the devil in Seattle and spent 9 months inside the lions’ den
Met Buddha yet another time and he showed me a glowing light within
But I swear that God is there every time I glare in the eyes of my best friend
Says my son it's all been done and someday yer gonna wake up old and gray
So go and try to have some fun showing warmth to everyone
You meet and greet and cheat along the way

There's a gateway in our mind that leads somewhere out there beyond this plane
Where reptile aliens made of light cut you open and pull out all your pain
Tell me how you make illegal something that we all make in our brain
Some say you might go crazy but then again it might make you go sane

Every time I take a look inside that old and fabled book
I'm blinded and reminded of the pain caused by some old man in the sky
Marijuana, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT they all changed the way I see
But love's the only thing that ever saved my life

So don't waste your mind on nursery rhymes
Or fairy tales of blood and wine
It's turtles all the way down the line
So to each their own till we go home
To other realms our souls must roam
To and through the myth that we all call space and time

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