Memorials and Memories

I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say during this memorial. I want to say something about each of them individually, but also about them together as a couple. After all, they were a couple for nearly seventy years. There should be something to say about that. But when I think about them as a couple, I keep coming up against a sort of Heisenberg problem. The observer alters the observed. My memories of them together always include me.

How are they a couple if there are at least three of us in every picture? My presence influenced their behavior on those occasions as well as colored my own perceptions of them. I can’t see them as they would otherwise have been if I were not there. Instead, I see them as being seen by me under the influence of me. How do I get myself out of the picture?

Most of my memories of the over the past 45 years take place on so-called occasions. Either I am visiting them or they are visiting me. There is a visit involved one way or another, not an every day, average day, normal fragment of a bit of a life.

When I do see them together in my memories, it’s usually at a dinner table – either the one in that pit of doom and drama of the old family home on Lowry’s Lane, or a ritual of visitation thereafter, neither one a good sample of them as a couple. No one was ever at their best in those situations.

Or else we’re in a car and we’re driving somewhere. Again, no one is ever at their best, or there are the classic memories replayed so many times that fall into the general buckets of good or bad times. I don’t want to remember judgments and opinions. I want to remember them.

The only hints I’ve been able to get of them as a couple truly being them as a couple have come from the stealthy moments when I was not in the room, maybe in Shohola, when I was just barely waking up in the guest room and they were already up and puttering about in the morning. I can hear the soft tones of their voices. I hear a little light laugh from my mother, maybe my father’s being silly, relaxed and in that gentle way he had at times that made him such a sweetheart. It seems to me that they were at their best in this playfulness, in the ease they put each other in, in the back and forth of planning to do something they both wanted to do, of being where they both wanted to be

I want to keep overhearing them like that. I don’t want to get up, don’t want to join them in the kitchen, don’t want to be in the middle of it, don’t want to interrupt, or take them out of that soft togetherness.

 

What do we want and when do we want it?

What do we want? (justice)

When do we want it? (now)

Ah, the good old days, when chanting simple things was so satisfying, but that was before the transgender Black Marxists destroyed the family unit and made America communist by electing Joe Biden.

Now, I’m voting for Joe Biden – of course! I have one of those Libtard brains, wired for hope and sharing, not one of those Contard brains, wired for fear and hoarding. Even so, I’m still a cis white male who has had around 4,000 years to hold court so I’m cool with mostly shutting the fuck up, letting go and letting all those other oh-so-very-different humans take a stab at it.

With an occasional clear head and before I forget, I wanted to write down what it is we all really want and really need, now more than ever, in this world:

  1. A decent universal standard of living. Here that would be at least $20/hour minimum wage supplemented by a baseline universal basic income so that nobody is living below the poverty level. Nobody.
  2. Universal health care. I know, I know, it must be very difficult because nearly every other country in the world has done it and long since.
  3. Equal rights and equal justice for all residents of every country. No one is illegal. No one is an alien. No one is of a lower caste. No one is getting murdered willy-nilly by fascist police because of the color of their skin.
  4. Major steps towards minimizing the inevitable impact of drastic climate change already underway, and not just because it was 121 degrees in Los Angeles yesterday, but because we know, and we’ve known for decades, that we really do have to do this or else we’re all screwed.
  5. Pay for important things like this by taxing the shit out of wealth and property and corporate revenues not profits. It’s beyond obscene at this point. A universal cap on wealth is fine by me. Let’s make it one billion dollars. The other hundreds of billions of dollars in private hands can be put to good use.

So, how much of this are we going to get – best possible case – Biden/Harris and a Democratic senate and house, with the filibuster deleted in the senate so that 51 votes is enough?

Realistically now:

  1. $15/hr minimum wage at best, supplemented by nothing. That level of income is already below the poverty line. It’s shameful.
  2. Maybe a gradual expansion of medicare, lowering the eligibility age from 65 to 55, leaving tens of millions still without insurance. Disgraceful.
  3. Eh, not so much, It’s going to be up to cities and states, one by one, to painfully reform their fascist police. Best case scenario, in 20 years you’ll be relatively safe from the cops in American cities, and at great risk anywhere else, in the suburbs and rural areas, from the worst of the worst of the real piggity pigs.
  4. Climate change? Here’s a million dollars to think about geothermal. Here’s another million to wonder about tides. How about we maybe bribe the oil companies to ponder wind and solar some more.
  5. We’ll add a few percent to the capital gains tax, continue to let most huge corporations and wealthy citizens to mosey along without contributing jack.

That’s about it, folks, until we get the transgender Black Marxists to really destroy the family unit. That is exactly what the prophets foretold in the Bible, by the way, word for word. Look it up. Check your Bible index right now under T for “transgender Black Marxists”.

Assuming you have the 2020 Gen-Z translation. I hear it’s a scream.

Know-how vs. Not-know-how

We are having quite the summer over here. First there was the pandemic, and although we know how to deal with it, we apparently somehow collectively decided not to. As a result, we’ve been more or less shutdown and stuck in our homes for several months. Until a few days ago, that is, when the lightning came and set the forests on fire. Now we’ve had to evacuate our homes and are left to watch our doorbell cameras to see if our town has burned down yet. More lightning expected tomorrow.

I had mixed feelings when loading up the truck with stuff to take away just in case the house does burn down. What to keep, what to let go? What do I really need? With the cancer treatments failing and the likelihood of never needing anything again rather sooner than later, I felt a bit ridiculous packing up. But now that I’m here I’m glad to at least have my guitars with me. I can use them in the meantime.

My son is fortunately safe and sound, or rather, maybe? Because he’s off at college where viruses like this one have a blast. So far he’s being sensible but seriously, nineteen year olds and being sensible is a rare match.

The wildfires are no random tragedy. The people who lived here for 15,000 years had a good idea how to do it. They burned the land strategically and continuously, optimizing the natural resources for all sorts of necessities, for food, medicine, shelter, basketry, all sorts of things. Then the Europeans showed up a couple of hundred years ago and saw only two major resources: grasses for livestock, timber for building. So they eradicated both the people and the landscape, and deliberately grew these fire traps, forests thick with straight and flammable trees, acres and acres of grasslands drying in the periodic droughts. Burning all the fossil fuels in the world didn’t help much either, so now it’s drier and hotter than ever before. Know-how versus Not-know-how.

Good thing we’re so fucking civilized, otherwise we might quite incidentally destroy ourselves while boasting of our ingenuity.

We can’t get no and why

It’s unnatural to be satisfied, to be content, to feel complete, for enough to be enough for us. By “us” I don’t mean just we humans. I mean every living thing on this planet. I mean this planet itself, of which we are all children and which we reflect in so many ways. We are always in motion, always changing. Nothing in this world is ever at rest. Things may appear to be still, but this is illusion, just was we cannot feel the earth rotating continuously. It is in the nature of things of this planet to never be satisfied, to never stop. That peaceful creek is constantly in motion, That tall calm tree contains a teeming inner life.

Within ourselves our hearts beat, our blood flows, we breathe in and out, our senses are alive and tingling, the trillion bacteria inside us and all those cells that make us up are never done. Even our corpses are busy decomposing and returning to the world in bits and pieces.

I do feel complete these days, as diminished as I am by illness and medication. I can no longer do most of the things I love to do, and I’m ready to whenever it’s my time, and yet here I am, trying to express this feeling, trying to put it into words, and for what, and for who? Only because I cannot stop. If I have thoughts busily churning in my head I have to get up out of bed, switch on this little laptop, navigate to this website and get the words out, or else I’ll never get to sleep. It’s only natural. It never stops.

Unending darkness (Dark: TV: Spoilers: ish)

I live in a very small town. I moved here 30 years ago, but others have lived here longer, grew up here, have parents who grew up here. One of those parents once told me that in the very small local high school, by the time they graduated everybody had fucked pretty much everybody else.

This seems to be the basic idea of the German Sci-Fi show “Dark”, now finishing in its third season on Netflix, except that in that small town, some aspergery dude at some point invented time travel, so that everybody ended up fucking other versions of each other all throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first century. Thus they all ended up being each other’s grandmothers and uncles and what not. On top of that, the inventor guy managed to split the world into two parallel, interconnected worlds, so that you had people from parallel universes fucking each other and giving rise to babies with even more peculiar lineages, such as one whose father was never even born in that world.

The worlds of Dark are full of light and shadow (licht und schatten) and it’s a hell of a ride to the end. Its incomprehensible complexity and confusion is the story itself. I respect that. The only question that remains is why any of these people would ever trust each other for a moment. They’re all such liars and cheaters and secret-keepers, but my own little town is like that, and also like my own little town, no one in that German town ever seems to leave. Even when a bus pulls up and they’re sitting there waiting at the stop, they don’t get on the fucking bus.

The toast made in the last scene summed the whole thing up very nicely. I’d give the show 5 stars, but also many more.

Fathers and father figures

My father died yesterday, age 93, after many years of increasing dementia and disability. He was not at all the same person he used to be, except in certain elemental ways. He would still laugh at his longtime favorite sayings (“here’s your hat what’s your hurry?”, “I’ll never forget old whats-his-name”) and his laugh was legendary, always the loudest in any group setting. His life was long and complicated, with many roads taken and many roads not.

As a radical intellectual of Jewish heritage he found his academic career blocked and stymied by McCarthyist blacklists in the fifties, after having served in the Air Force in WWII and gone through college and graduate school on the G.I. bill. His promised teaching positions at Harvard and then Columbia suddenly dried up and he found himself at a small woman’s college where he remained for decades. Author of several inscrutable books of fascinating premises, he found eventual fulfillment in the founding and leadership of a Gestalt Therapy Institute, a position of influence and localized renown. Beloved and respected in his field, he was a person of great value in many lives. Warm, compassionate, thoughtful and sensitive, he was essentially a good man.

Not that he didn’t have his flaws, among them a rocky marriage racked by his own dishonesty and betrayals, yet a marriage that lasted until my mother’s death, a total of nearly 70 years. Gestalt therapy pulled them through to an old age rich in companionship and care, along with a crusty accumulation of assorted grievances and general crankiness. My mother would scold him for desiring a cookie, for instance. We teased her for her tendency to say things like “you can’t possibly be hungry. You had a tomato yesterday!”

My father was a sports enthusiast, to the point where his doctor forbade him from watching the Eagles on TV. He was an avid tennis and badminton player, a basketball player in his Indiana youth, and a tenacious competitor. He enjoyed licorice and imported beer. He was also a relentless flirt, known for commenting on the physical attributes of nearly every woman he saw. A man of his times, he spared himself from most effort involved in child rearing, though he had four sons. He contributed little assistance with laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping, baby-sitting, helping with homework, communicating with teachers, et cetera. Yet he considered himself a feminist and certainly respected and assisted many women professionally, whether he slept with them or not.

An avowed socialist and atheist, he was fiercely anti-war, anti-racist, anti-corporate, pro-union and worked locally to support radical charities in the local community. We were an odd family, commie pinko jews-of-a-sort in a well-off very-white and segregated suburban Republican-dominated area. There were hardly any families like ours for miles around. We should have been somewhere else; New York City most appropriately, and probably would have been were it not for the blacklisting.

My parents had their friends but very few family friends (the main ones moved away from the neighborhood when I was very young) and no relatives nearby. They rarely entertained at home or had casual visitors. It was a large and largely quiet house, especially as we grew and peeled off one by one. And in growing up, all of us boys were mainly attached to our mother. She was the involved parent, and the one you could talk to. If my father ever came to speak with you, you knew it was going to be like an unwanted therapy session, where he would grill you on how you were “feeling” and of course you could never tell him. You “felt” that he wouldn’t understand.  His own father had been either distant and uninterested, or violent and full of rage. My father was terrified of his own father and I don’t know if he ever overcame that, truly.

I used to say that I never needed a father figure because my father *was* my father figure. Now, at the age of 62, I have no idea what I meant by that. Was it just words, some kind of cute writerly thing that meant nothing? It is true I never sought out any older men for acceptance or validation, but then I never sought out anyone for that, and never got it from anyone either, except from my own wife and child. Did I never need or want it, or did I just give up at some point? I have no idea. The person I am now looks back at the people I used to be as if they were strangers. I don’t know what the hell they were thinking, or what they thought they were doing. All I know is that the results of my earlier deeds and choices led me to where I am now, to who I am now – assuming I am actually anyone and not just a busy mathematical equation that keeps adding variables and re-calculating day-by-day, to no end whatsoever, an equation that is never complete and never resolves.

My father as well was a mathematical equation. You can plug in his strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures, insights and blind spots, wise and foolish actions, plus the impacts of all the external forces that acted upon him, minus the opportunities denied, times the hours and days and months and years, divided by the struggles and resistances encountered. There is no determination of a self.

He believed very strongly that radical change in the world was essential. People could not be healed until society was healed and society could not be improved until people themselves improved. He was very much influenced by radical thinkers like Franz Fanon, Paul Goodman, John MacMurrary and Paolo Freire. He was idealistic, optimistic, and quite often depressed by the indecency and ignorance of the actual world of humans. He was, however, spared the knowledge of the current presidency and its shameful vileness and idiocy. He was happy in the end, pretty much, the kind of happiness that only comes with a freshly scrubbed brain.

I loved my father. He only beat me once, and I deserved it. I respected him even though he lied to my face. He sometimes let me down but I certainly let him down as well. He smelled of Old Spice and gave us all crew cuts every summer. He made me rub his back but we did difficult jigsaw puzzles together. His interest in music was limited to the chamber/classical kind. He never read fiction and really didn’t understand why anyone would. He loved to laugh. He often sang (too loudly) the same old wartime shanties he’d learned as a youth in the brothels of occupied Germany. Most of the family trips he took us on were to civil rights or anti-war demonstrations in D.C. or N.Y.C..

His most lasting legacy, for me personally, was the year he took us all to live in Bologna, Italy for a year. He was on a sabbatical and writing his first book (Psychoanalysis: Radical and Conservative) and he used to walk my little brother and me to our elementary school every morning. That was the time I felt closest to him (I was ten years old). I will always cherish him for that great gift.

One lump or two

I’m still here, taking it one lump at a time, as far as tumors go, but rarely feeling like putting together words one after another.

Increasingly I’m finding the distinctions between economic systems to be symbolic differences, mainly; different myths more than different realities. The dIvine right of kings, the bootstraps of Horatio Alger, the evils of transnational neoliberal monopoly capital, Workers of the world uniting, Robber barons, Railroad heirs, Tyrants, Juntas, benevolent dictators, Jah Ras Tafari, The leisure class, The man of the people, from Peronism to Trumpism (the Fat Elvis du jour), the ever-longed-for yet derided-as-pedestrian middle class, the people united being continually defeated.

Degrees of inequality shift a bit here and there, power doesn’t always come from the barrel of a gun but frequently through propaganda and/or charisma and all too often from the sheer madness of crowds. Anyone can become a genocidal maniac, now even for free through online instruction!
Is our children learning anything new under the sun?
Who knew that “the world will never be the same again” after Covid-19, just as it was never the same after 9-11, but somehow I doubt this thing is equivalent to the Khmer Rouge. This upheaval is going to nibble at the margins, predicts Nostrathomas. People are gregarious social animals. They can’t be locked down for long.

Adapt and die

We know that living things change to adapt to conditions and those that survive, succeed in reproducing. That’s as far as they get because, of course, they die after that. Whether their progeny need to change to adapt or not depends on later conditions. The thing that changed to adapt is long gone by then. So then, evolution.

We love to use it as a metaphor, applying it willy-nilly as if those applications were living things – memes, cultural evolution, the stories we tell – getting it all mixed up because metaphors are not living things. They change, it’s true, to adapt, and they go away in time, but like trash they are lost or thrown away. That is not death. Non-living things do not die. Don’t get confused.

When a drug is used to treat a disease and that disease changes to adapt so that the drug is no longer effective, it is not a metaphor. The “disease” is a living thing. Reality bites.

“Even dreams must fall to rules. So stupidly. Words are all just useless sound. Just like cards they fall around. And we will be” – Sister Europe, Psychedelic Furs

Cancer is a living thing that does what it needs to do to reproduce. It changes to adapt. It does now know that the thing it does leads inevitably to the death of its host, thus to its own death as well, because it cannot reproduce outside of the host. Cancer is not contagious. When it figures out the trick the drug is using to equip the immune system to destroy it, it finds another trick, if it can. If it can find another trick, it survives, succeeds in reproducing. Cancer cells are not immortal. The ones that changed to adapt are long gone by the time their progeny are using the trick and passing it on to theirs.

It’s tempting in these lockdown times to use metaphors but living things are not words. Don’t forget that. They tell us that viruses are not living things, but bacteria are. Viruses don’t exactly reproduce. They are copy machines. They get cells to make copies of themselves. The copies overwhelm the cells, bust out, and the copies get other cells to make copies, and so on. The virus is not a living thing, but the cells it uses are destroys are living things.

Metaphors are fun, though, so we, us human beings (living things) make machines (non-living things) to help us do the things we do to change and adapt, survive and reproduce. The machines do things to the world we live in (as do we) and the things that are done (factory fumes, car exhaust, chemical spills, nuclear waste, pollution of every kind) overwhelm the world, hurting, breaking and killing all sorts of living things. The human-as-cancer metaphor hooks up with a machine-as-virus metaphor in a successful collaboration of the living and the not. Successful in that the living thing reproduces and is long gone by the time its progeny has to change to adapt to the landscape it produced.

That landscape is not a metaphor. It’s a reality. We built nearly all of our cities next to water because at the time the technology of trade demanded it. The consequences of rising sea levels is not ironic, it’s just cause and effect. The technology of trade created it, long past the point where building cities near water was even necessary. Too late.

Lately I feel that we live so much in stories that we can’t even feel the real world. Okay, I’m speaking for myself but I sense it applies, as a metaphor if nothing else!

 

 

What to worry about, and how

That co-worker who snacks twelve times a day, crunching softly at the other desk in the doubled-up cubicle.

How bad that merge from six lanes down to two on the freeway is going to be this morning?

How many times will I hear the word “enterprise” in the eleven meetings on my schedule, and how will I avoid laughing out loud in each and every one of them?

The Internet Archive set up a “Free Emergency Library” stocked with crappy digitized versions of random books and backlist authors everywhere are concerned that someone might even find their books in that morass and deprive them of a meager portion of their meager earnings.

Is the next episode of that show going to be any better than the last?

Oh, right.

How are the eight million suddenly unemployed people going to eat?

Who do I know who is going to die this week or next?

Is that lady on aisle seven infectious?

Out with all the old concerns, in with the new, but I feel like I’ve already heard all the takes, all the opinions, all the wild-ass guesses, all the well-informed predictions, all the medical advice, all the sober analyses. Social media is even more a wasteland of conformity than ever – on the bright side, I did read that Bernie Sanders once advocated the Wilhelm Reich notion that conformity causes cancer, so now I guess if we all do what we’re supposed to do to avoid the virus … never mind.

If you live in an orgone box you’re already ahead of the curve.

Those of you who went out and “got a life”, how’s that working out for you now? Those of us who never did are having a much easier time of it.

It’s got to be something really strange to make a dent in my attention span these days – and that happened recently when watching Avenue Five on HBO and people began seeing the face of John Paul XXIII in the ring of feces circling the ship, all lit up by lasers.

Live concerts on Instagram from musicians’ living rooms are a new treat.

No doubt more innovations will follow on from all of this but I think we’re all wondering the same thing; where are all the fucking robots when we need them to be doing all the jobs?

Porch theft of packages took on a new light this week when the deliveries were cannabis.

If we were all ants or bees, we would know just what to do. Turns out that being wacky hairless apes living in a fake reality of our own creation has its drawbacks. The things that man creates cause more harm than good unto the earth (says a song by Misty in Roots).

Every time I start to worry about something I have to stop and ask myself, is this worth worrying about? Ever since I came down with stage four cancer the answer has been “no” almost every time.

The fear of death gets boring, I can tell you that much.

 

 

Meg Got Fleeced (Fragments From Books That Don’t Exist #128)

MegGotFleeced

The going was good so you know. I had heard about this spot from that person of a certain age and gender who hung around the coffee shop most days until they remodeled it for way more seating and then it was such a pain to squeeze between the new tables trying to get out so that person stopped going there. The spot was tight and out of the way. I would never have found it otherwise. I used to go fishing for sea glass and this spot was a miracle. The going was so good! It was also always low tide between the cliffs and I understand that seems impossible but there it was. Low tide forever and sea glass out the yin yang if you know what I mean. The rope that dropped from the cliff was kind of frayed and the three hundred foot drop was a bit much I will admit. I didn’t think about the way back up. I guess I figured love would find a way and I was in love with that spot. I didn’t even listen to the vagabond cursing in the parking lot about the tourists ruining everything because that is their one and only mission in life as far as I can tell. We came, we took a photo, we ruined. Something like that but in Latin. My pockets were stuffed full, so full of incredible sea glass I didn’t even notice when the tide came in for the first time in the history of the world.  I could still hear the vagabond laughing though. It sounded like the ocean.