How to Train a Crow to Kill

6b2f6c7eb94e3ad9f7ee4d4cadf3dec7It took two-hundred thousand years for the human population to reach one billion. Then, it took two-hundred years for our human population to reach seven billion. It will only take one year for that to drop to zero. I’m not saying the world needs to end, but something has to happen or humanity will never learn to respect the god damn crows.

A crow is a handy friend. If you offer them affection they will return it tenfold. The love of crows is magic. A crow is a loyal enough friend that you’ll never have to ask him to kill. He’ll know the deepest, darkest rage of your heart. My rage calls me in whispers. I like to think it’s the voice of the crow offering a subtle wish for the world. I’d like to say, “Let it all burn”, but I know that’s far too much to ask.

What I say instead is, “let that bastard suffer” and they do. One crow pecks the eyes. Another pecks the kidney. And another. Two more go for the eyes. The man falls. Dozens of crows attack. Pecking. The man kicks. Screams. Cries. Blood trickles from tiny wounds all over his face. The bastard suffers and all is right with the world.

Crows are in good humor, which is always dark. They get a good laugh from shitting on passersby, but they really love to see someone get hurt. This one fellow kept chasing this rabbit who ran out onto the ice. Back and forth they went, you see, because the crow wouldn’t let the rabbit escape the ice. Whenever the rabbit would get close to land the crow swooped down and prevented his departure. This went on for several minutes, until the rabbit fell into the ice.

They kill out of rage or to lighten their moods. Murder is a good time to a crow. They’ll kill to make a friend happy or ‘cheer them up’. You want a crow friend, if only for the entertainment of their sinister humor and utter brevity.

Step One: Feed them. This might sound simple, but finding what they like isn’t easy. They’re not trash birds, like people think. They’re ‘leisure lunchers’. They eat what they can find, but won’t eat any scrap of trash they’re presented.

The other issue with feeding them is that a rotten bastard blue-jay is likely to steal it. They’re much faster than crows. It’s difficult to get the attention of a crow before a blue jay grabs its meal, but always worth the effort. Crows have unique spirits that we can only understand by being their friends.

Step Two: Talk to them. After a few feedings, talk about the weather. Crows are adamant about the weather. You have to learn how to talk to them about it, however, as it’s nothing that we’re accustomed. What I find easiest is a simple, ‘How about that weather?’ comment. They eat that up. They won’t shut up and they expect you to listen. They’ll quiz you on what you remember and, what you don’t remember will be repeated… often.

Step Three: Let them in. Crows don’t need a place to stay, but once you’re their friend they like to check up on you. Leave open a window or some slot in the door, like you would for a puppy. Always leave a ‘crow’s entrance’ or they’ll come crashing through a window.

*Master the second step and they’ll never abandon your friendship. This is, in part, because they hate losing friends that care about the weather.

Step Four: Kill a fucking blue jay. The mortal enemy of the crow is the blue jay. The annoying sounds they make agitate the silent rage of the crow. They’re annoying birds that care nothing for the weather. Kill a blue jay and make a friend for life.

Step Five: Never tie your shoes. If you have Velcro sneakers a crow won’t bother with you, because they like shoelaces. They love impressing a new friend by tying their shoes. So, leave them undone. Walk around a group of friendly crows and let them have fun.

Also, if they see some loose rope or even a bit of fishing wire, it’ll end up tied. One of my good friends tied a bow with some fishing wire around a small-mouth bass. They’re in good humor, these guys.

Step Six: Construct an Altar to the Dark Lord of ‘Enu Ana Rlyeh’. Some fellows speak of a forgotten world (I don’t know how they remembered). Crow’s wings take them to other worlds than these. We witness the flutter, but not the flash, as distant worlds present themselves to the crow. They speak to me of a place founded above a beating black heart. I built a model city based on their description. Since then, I’ve been a good friend to them.

I built the city with Popsicle sticks and glue. I also gathered some of their favorite rocks (soapstone, marble, limestone and basalt). It’s about ten feet long and wide and they use it as a playground. I enjoy watching them grasp a purple marble meant to depict the ‘Eye of Negach’, which they toss around for a good time.

Step Seven: Ask them if they know that a group of them is called ‘a murder’. Most of them don’t, but once they do they think it’s the funniest thing. Murder is a hilarious joke to a crow. They like watching people kill more than watching people die. They’ve told me several times, kill after kill. They enjoy murder, maybe more than the weather.

After the seventh step, a crow becomes a ‘Ka-Num’, a ‘well friend’. A well friend is a brother without all the blood. This is when they ask if there’s anyone you want to kill. Whatever you do, don’t say no. Not that anything bad happens. It’s just rude.

I made the mistake of saying I wanted every god damn person on the planet dead. After that, Ka-Num meant something else. I thought we were brothers and I was right. I just didn’t understand what that meant to the crows.

The crows pecked a hole into the center of the model of Enu Ana Rlyeh. An anomaly of black feathers and mud covered the opening. They fed it worms and covered it with dirt and hay. The anomaly ate everything they brought. I asked what they were doing and they said, “Killing time”. Dark humor, again, but still a damn good joke.

I never had a friend in man. Talking to people feels so complex. I gave up after failing for years. People don’t make sense to me. We breathe poison and talk politics and think nothing of it. You could slip anthrax into the water supply and we’d find someone to blame besides ourselves. It’s easier to assume it’s some viral marketing for a new color of Mountain Dew.

Crows don’t care about politics. If you’re a crow you’re a crow for life. The loyalty and affection they’ve shown me is more than I ever saw from humanity. It’s easier to befriend a crow than it is a man. Men have ideas. Crows have fun. They tinker and peck and have as much fun as they can.

The thing in my basement within the model city of Enu Ana Rlyeh is looking more like an egg with every new day. It spasms and coos, as the opening widens. Warm black sludge drains from the opening and covers the egg. I don’t dare touch it. The stench is enough to keep me away.

I awoke the next morning without my right foot. White bandages covered a stump above my ankle. A pair of crutches waited at the side of my bed. I went down to the basement. There were dozens, much more than a murder, of crows.

The crows turned when I entered. You would’ve thought I had eleven heads!

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Their wings fluttered and they floated through the air. Whispers invaded the room and echoed from within the egg. A narrow slit at the top of the egg folded outward. A beak pushed through the opening and echoed the dreaded curse, “Killing time”.

“The Sin Crow emerges!” The crows declared.

“Plague of crows!” I shouted. “What is this?”

“Breathable cancer. There is no end more fitting for man than upon the wings of the Sin Crow. The final days of man are upon us!”

Molten waste poured out of the egg. The crows fled through the open window. Black lava flooded the basement. A black hand emerged from the egg and spread its fingers across the room. I limped out of the basement and fled down the street.

My home sank into the earth and took the entire block with it. I couldn’t escape the shadow of the crows that followed for miles in the sky. The wild eye fluttered above the clouds with an enigmatic wink, as the crows within flashed out of existence. A hole in the sky swallowed the miles of flying crows, who went without question into that other world.

All I wanted was a friend. All I got was breathable cancer. Good joke. The Sin Crow is everywhere. You have one year, maybe less. Enjoy it, good people. Make a friend. Maybe it’ll be enough to call the Sin Crow back to that fallen city. Or maybe, just teach a crow the names of your enemies and count your blessings.

Fertile Soil

Image result for japanese gardenMy grandmother had the worst luck with back yards. Every year, she expected something to grow. Not even grass seemed willing to venture out into our backyard. What we were left with was a bunch of dirt. Between the two houses that she lived in most of her life, she was blessed with two boys who were willing to try every year to make something grow, as well as a few trees that brought more shade than we deserved. The roots dug deep into our backyard. Nothing grew for the entire time that I lived there.

One day, the landlord decided the trees were too much of a liability. He sent in a crew to cut them all down. He cut them in half and leaved the broken halves to rot into our backyard. It was such an ugly ornament, but my grandmother decorated the nearly seven foot corpse with flowers and hanging plants, as well as some solar lights and some other things to make it nice.

The thing that happened can’t be described as a miracle. I think we all understand that without such a massive obstruction to the sun, the grass, the weeds, the various plants that she attempted to sustain throughout the years, they all came back in a flash. Within a few weeks, her backyard was overrun. It was beautiful and terrifying. She had weeds running across her five-foot chain-link fence, so much so that we couldn’t see anything on the other side. Even the grass grew a much brighter shade of green.

Something had to assume control. There was far too much light for everyone to share. The weeds, I admire and detest. They grow with little difficulty and strangle the life out of everything in their path. That’s survival. That’s all they know. I wish we could click off that instinct in their DNA. They’d be much prettier and easier to appreciate. Instead, I resent the weeds, because they made my grandmother a fake tree. She loved it, but I saw the roots. It grew out of the weeds, which seeped into the ground, like poison. They jutted out and… I have to say, were quite convincing as a tree. It took a keen eye and some examination to understand that it was taking advantage of us.

When I wanted to cut it down, grandma wouldn’t have it… so, it remains. That’s how life works. It’ll grow out of control, but unlike the trees, it will provide no benefit to the world around us. In a few years, maybe more, the fertile soil will have been changed by the weeds and the narrative will change. Fertile soil gives birth to so many possibilities, but if we don’t do our best to seize these rare opportunities and make them a benefit for the good and righteous, it’ll all collapse into the earth and be forgotten for all eternity.

Fertile soil.

Magical Methane Leaks and Our Treacherous Water Supply

Divine design dedicated to the Greek Parthenon.

Magic might seem like nonsense, but that’s only to those who haven’t been poisoned by big business. If you have poison in your water supply, chances are you’ll be witness to many a splendid miracles. And, for those who have been laced with myriad chemicals, what would be the difference? Am I to say that I feel blessed for seeing angels on the streets, demons around dark corners and… god forbid, trolls under our bridges? It’s important to believe in magic, because Flint, Michigan isn’t the first and won’t be the last place that the vile nightmares that inhabit this plane of existence do their best to pollute. They want us believing. They want us seeing angels… UFOs… bloated carcasses of poisoned seals that made it too far down the river. If we believe in angels, we’ll believe in miracles. If we believe in miracles we’ll believe there’s hope that humanity can make it out of this festering nightmare it’s created for itself.

Belief is essential if you want to survive. In this day, it’s taken on sheer atavism. It lost those rough edges of sincerity. No one questions themselves. We question each other. We attack one another for every stupid thing, but we never expand on ourselves. I’ve had such difficulty believing and, as a surprise, for all I’ve seen it makes it that much more difficult. I refuse to believe, because of all that I’ve seen. These are but minor excursions, miracles of no more affliction than a magician pulling a rabbit from his hat. The true miracle often looms beyond our grasp, but we know it well. This talk of angels helps to detract from the darker reality of sustainability and the fact that life is constantly tilting toward doom and yet, somehow, maintains. If not to truly believe, than to at least pay respect. The forces that govern and protect this world control the balance.

It’s important to take some rituals seriously, although we know they sound moronic and quite possibly insane. For example, some of us who make our journey walking over the Dunn Memorial Bridge, make it a point to spit into the wind. You turn back from Albany and get a good look at Rensselaer. You’re facing oncoming traffic and then you spit into the wind. Don’t aim for a car, but if it happens, well… these things have to happen. It’s far better not to upset the spirits that protect us than the man driving to work in his once pristine Prius. If you walk far enough along, however, the bridge loops around in a circle around Riverfront Park. Legend has it that if you can spit into the park across the road, you’ll be granted one wish. I wished for world domination, but my phlegm struck an oncoming Hyndai with its windows down…

The bridges of this city, which are several, possess their own spirits and therefore must maintain certain rituals. One of the most important is the bridge in front of the laundromat between Broadway and the Dunn Memorial. It’s important because the water is flowing to the river. It’s making its grand escape from the city. All friendly spirits make their path through the city and are making their way to the ‘great beyond’ where they’ll be greeted by the seven hands of fate. They must choose one in order to find their destiny.

Before they can cross over, they must pay the ferryman, which is a troll, who also lives beneath the bridge. He’s made his home under there, which is nothing more than a ‘bird’s nest’ constructed of sticks and twigs. From far away, it looks like a massive bee hive. The sticks and muck are glued together by the grime in his spit. It remains suspended beneath the bridge, rattling with the ongoing traffic, which is like a soft lullaby to the troll. He hears the constant cries of the lost souls. He comes to them, because this is how he will make his living.

He collects what he can from the lost souls, but it’s up to us to help them. Whenever you pass over the bridge, it’s important to throw a nickel or dime, really whatever you can to save him. In fact, some appreciate it if you skip throwing it to the troll entirely and just give it to charity. Apparently several bridge trolls are invested in local charities. I’m sure you can find one to appease them. I like the mission along South Pearl Street in Albany, which is just over the bridge. I’m not one for religious causes, of course, but it’s hard to find places whose only intent is to help people survive a rough, treacherous life out on the streets.

If you can, say a prayer for the spirits that protect us. Light a candle. Tell those that you love that the crying in the night is not their ancestors seeking fulfillment in some unforgiving afterlife, but the stars rotting away with heat and rhythmic vibrations from an ever-expanding cosmos.

Raconteur Street Blues

I grew up around some of the great narcissists of our time. History won’t remember them, so I have to. They were great storytellers, who forged a knack for survival into an unequivocal hunger to live like kings. They spoke of riches and wealth that they couldn’t have possibly known, yet painted a picture so alluring we had no choice but to believe. They were raconteurs, wizards possessed of a singular illusion that painted the world in their image and presented it to us, as if it were ours.

A Raconteur is “a person who excels in telling anecdotes”. Also, an anecdote (Please note: I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence. I mean to provide clarity.) is “a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident”. A raconteur is a great storyteller. I’ve always considered the word to be closer to ‘being a good bullshitter’, which is worth its weight in gold. Anyone can tell a story, but getting people to care is a miracle akin to walking on water.

Storytellers are plentiful. You can see them in coffee shops behind laptops, biding their time until they have a chance to share, connect and separate. It’s in that singular moment, where we connect, that things change. They can become dangerous in a moment’s notice, as they infect your mind with complex riddles that the storytellers have been working on since the dawn of time. You might wonder, ‘why would a person share such a riddle?’ you can’t think like that. It’s how any good storyteller wants you to think. They want you to assume they have no reason to hurt you. There’s no harm in believing what they believe. There’s no harm in believing them without question.

The thing that all decent ‘raconteurs’ must ask themselves periodically is ‘do I care more about myself than I do the story?’ I’ve lived among some of the great bullshitters of modern history. We heard plenty of stories growing up, yet so few of them added up in a way that it could make me care. The raconteurs possessed this trait that added depth to their stories, not just with what images they infused, but with how they made us feel. We felt involved. They tugged on our heartstrings and moved us toward an end that we couldn’t see. They possessed our future, as we waited for these mindless heathens to comb through the vast wasteland of their psyches in search of an end to whatever narrative they were painting.

Any good story comes from a single point. It’s not the beginning. It’s just a point. They wanted to make a point. They’d lie about having sex, so they’d present a narrative that made the possibility of them having sex seem possible. They’d plant a few mental images here and there, forming past and future around this premise. Ultimately, their goal was to forge a real, however unlikely, narrative, in order to make us believe.

The raconteurs believed what they said. The proof was in their words. They told us to take it from there, because taking a man at his word is as good as taking it in blood… at least when you’re a child. When we were kids we lied and it helped. We had impossible things to accomplish in a collapsing world full of poverty and the imminent threat of some incomprehensible bullshit. We had to hide sensitive information from our parents, while taking advantage of our God-like inertia, limitless energy and simple-mindedness. We had to prove to other kids that we were cool, while, at the same time, making our parents think we’d never do the cool things that get you into trouble. It added to our personal mystique, having accomplished nothing, we needed something to set us apart. We’d lie about drinking and drugs, losing our virginity, feats of the utmost stupidity… you know… harmless bullshit.

Truth is the trickiest thing. Everyone says they want it, but when it’s not something they agree with they have a reaction that makes you wonder. Truth. It’s a funny thing, because I could write out the truth as I see it and (hopefully) half of you would love me and the other would hate me. The trick for any good raconteur is understanding the right formula, while having as full an understanding as you can of the truth. I believe that you can’t write a decent story, even if it sounds like nonsense, without a sense of truth. It has to be written, spoken and lived with conviction. Truth has to appear in every word, exactly as you’ve seen it, while managing not to conflict with the truth, as it is. You should, as a good storyteller, align yourself with the truth in order to make your narrative more honest and compelling.

I never thought about truth when I was young enough to fall for these stories. The morality of lying, as one presents it to himself, so that he might further his ends, has become all the more staggering as I’ve reached adulthood. I’ve been trying to think of the right way to word this question. I doubt it’s perfect, but it needs to be asked. I’m curious as to what everyone believes:

Can you have a moral premise without any evidence?

Some raconteurs have no regard for the truth. In all honesty, as a kid I didn’t care. I was surrounded by some of the greatest storytellers of my time. I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how some of these impossible stories could be real. I believed with all my heart, because I was a stupid kid who still believed in Santa. (FYI I believed in ghosts for longer than I believed in Santa, but I also assumed the ghosts would grant a wish or needed my help or whatever.) These are men who have learned to lie in a way that ‘everyone believes that you believe what you say’. You believe them, no matter the evidence to the contrary, because they, not their narrative, hold up well against the barrage of truth that assaults them on all sides.

They’re not not-sympathetic characters. Their truth is a depressing harangue of emotion and pain that most couldn’t understand. What’s worse, they keep it to themselves. They keep it! They hide all that pain and suffering, but even more, they hide the truth! They move with such intent when they tell their stories, as if revealing a deeper, more significant wisdom, while simultaneously hiding it from the world. It’s in their emphatic gestures, their movements, as if their bodies shift depending on the tone of their narratives, not to mention their eyes… it’s in all these things that those of us who were forced to listen HAD to believe.

We believed it all the more, because we lived it. They borrowed from our lives and, in this way, we added to the false narrative. Storytelling is a necessary skill. It made us feel good in a time where people were laughing at us, because our river was full of poison and visitors had no reason to… visit. The pain of being alive could’ve shown itself in crime and self abuse. For us, it showed itself in acceptance of nonsensical bullshit and downright lies.

Near-possible realities were a simple narrative that captured our attention, which begs the question: why do they need our attention? Evil raconteurs are like evil yogis. You can assume they don’t exist, as if there is no darkness when there is also light, but this is another simple narrative that’s easy to digest. The simple narrative is used to ensnare. You don’t need to talk about angels to be a good raconteur. You have to make people believe. This is that much more significant. You MAKE people believe. You take them on a journey, where they start out as a skeptic and then, through a few twists and turns… holy shit… you just made someone believe in angels.

(Also, if you don’t make them believe, you at least allow them to suspend reality for a time, which is kinda the same, although I admit there are differences.)

Making people believe and sharing with them a deeply personal truth is about as different as water and oil.

For what it’s worth, they thought they were kings, but that never stopped them from fighting to become that oh-so desirable, and unquestioned ruler of the universe. They lied and stole and fought, but the stories to me became all the more touching. These people, the Raconteurs, were at war with themselves, as well as the truth and as well as a circumstance of poverty and extreme depravity, which was plentiful, in our ever-collapsing society. They fought for freedom: the freedom to be as insane and harmful to oneself as you can get. They fought to make the world a weird place.

The Bottle Men

Image of our Ancestors… I guess.

For a longer time than I can remember, the homeless have been presented as a thing, this massive structure that seems impossible to break down or an ocean, because it would be impossible to disseminate a drop of rain from the largest body of water on the planet. The homeless in this country lose their identity and, after a while, they all start to look the same. Even if they look different, after a while something happens where you don’t pay attention. You see them, but it’s like seeing a tree in someone’s office. You don’t think about it. You shut off. They blend into the scenery to such a point that nobody says anything and the world moves on.

It’s when you break down certain levels of poverty that you realize there even are levels. Homeless isn’t the furthest decline into poverty. If anything, it might be nearest the beginning. It depends on who you talk to, if indeed you can talk to anyone. The homeless aren’t always one for conversation. Some need a lot of help and have fallen so far that talk isn’t good enough. They move shiftlessly, like ghosts trying to find their own plane of existence. They have a way of blending in that’s quite miraculous, for although they share the same appearance of grime and disease collected over tattered clothes layered on top of one another for warmth and utility, each of them has a singular destiny relative to his condition.

The Bottle Men are nothing unique to our city. They wander around with steel baskets that they wheel around and fill with bottles. They get their donations from neighbors and businesses. They live among us, and aren’t a they, which is to say they aren’t a group. They’re individuals who make their living off recycling. They pick up the bottles that people don’t want to return and bring them to their recycling centers to get some cash. It isn’t glamorous, but it allows them to exist. I think it’s important to examine this story, because, although it’s not the lowest level of poverty, it’s somewhere within that delicate strata and deserves thorough inspection. It isn’t that they’re desperate, although some of them most likely are, it’s that they’re made to be. They’re made into ‘The Homeless’, when these are individuals under a certain set of stimuli that become a certain way. Their conditions are unique, despite ending up the same, I assure you they’re quite different.

Then, I guess we could ask, what creates this massive body of water that we call ‘The Homeless’, but does that really have one answer? I assume that they’re generated from across the river. They walk along the bridge and ask a question of the Sphinx that guards it. If the Sphinx can’t answer they’re allowed to pass. If he can, he must eat their hearts. You’d think we’d have more bodies washing up along the shore, but the river goes on forever. It’s our protector against the endless sea. If you’d just go over to the other side, you could see them sleeping beneath the overpass, roaming the streets around the mission that’s a block away from the bridge.

Some don’t care about bottles. They’ll scribble a few desperate words on cardboard and wait for passersby to hand over a few bucks. It gets repetitive on your way to work, day after day, as the place remains the same, yet the homeless person changes. I don’t know if there is an agency of homeless that take turns waiting at the same spots, but something must happen, some arrangement of stimuli to make them flock, like birds heading south for the winter. Something clicks in their minds that they have to be here at this time, always the same times each day.

Time seems all the more important to the homeless. You’d think they wouldn’t have anywhere to be, being homeless, but they shuffle in patterns, like the tides that come with morning and night along the river. When night comes, the tide moves in, when its’ gone so is the tide. Morning comes and the homeless move. Five o’clock comes with that rush of traffic and the homeless become vigilant. They follow a rhythm that has yet to be determined, as I doubt many scientists are looking into the migration habits of Bottle-men or the virulent mating season of people that live under the bridge.

Song of the Hill People

Image result for sneakers over power line

Look like crows to me…

Stretching around Partition St and going for miles, passed Central Park and out to Herkimer St is what historians have labeled ‘Land of the Hill People’. Starting at Partition, the streets become narrow and slanted, as this half of the city is constructed on a hill… well, a mountain. In the early seventies, a group of nomads conquered this section of the city, known as the ‘Comanchi Hill Squatters’. They took the south side of Partition by force, invading the Stewarts and forcing out indigenous people that had lived there for generations. From there, they sped along the hill, gathering a brute army that slaughtered hundreds, before the city evacuated to the south. An army had to be called in to monitor the growing strength of this invasion, which amassed so swiftly it could hardly continue with such energy. Military experts could do nothing to save those within the area of Partition to Herkimer St, and thus the hill people either murdered those left behind, enslaved them or used them as a type of broodmare for their rotten genes. Since that fateful time, the hill people have become a staple of this fair city, with their genes being so inter-spliced amidst one another that their DNA can hardly be differentiated between one another. They’ve made this central point of our town their kingdom, which slants at an awkward right angle and forces all who park here to use their emergency brake.

There is a great hymn that these people have preserved over the years, sometimes editing to make their heroes sound that much greater to the ears of their children. It’s an important piece of their history, protecting it from invaders, as the Hill People are oft to do. They don’t take to outsiders with affection. They’ve always been xenophobic to a point where even their neighbors become enemies, if only for a while, before they’re friends again. History is their bond and theirs is full of myth and superstition. There’s this song that has escaped their secrecy, for which plenty have heard. I will share it now. This is the ‘Song of the Hill People’:

Many deeds have bested belly Bibby Bobby Maroo

Who tied together both his strings and gave the world his shoe

Not one to bother ever more to see between his sneakers

and belly slim amidst the mass of unrepentent tweekers

To cringe a toss so delicate betwixt his bloody fingers

That wrapped around those blackened cords with not a twinge of singer

And Billy Bobby broke it down to dance before his rivals

as they cringed with crimson rage and tossed their shoes in piles

For victory had been denied, because of Bobby Maroo

Who tossed, just one, but plenty more, his bloody, busted shoe.

Going through the land of the Hill People, one will see these decorations, shoes tied at the laces, strewn about the power-lines, as a show of respect to Bobby Maroo. Outsiders aren’t welcome for good reason. We can’t possibly understand the complexity of their culture. It would take anthropologists decades to infiltrate and understand the superstitions and religious hierarchies of the Hill People. This seems an impossibility, since the core belief among all Hill People is that if they can’t trust you they can have nothing to do with you. Still, one has to wonder what occurs at night, when they sing these songs, howling at the moon and honoring their dark gods.

Eternal State of Boredom

The Eternal State of Boredom, so it goes or so it seems, from one bridge to another. It’s those things in between: houses, streets, cricks, parks, people, playgrounds that I wish to ignore. The entirety of these forms shall pass, yet, with any city, there can be said to be an ‘identity’ that’s all its own. It belongs to none of us, yet it has become who we are. This is the Eternal State of Boredom.

Every city has its identity. You can walk down a street in New York and feel the incessant rush of constant motion. If it’s not people moving it’s buses and cars, subways, trains, plains, taxis and people on bikes dragging tourists. They move in a million different directions. Everyone has somewhere to go and, what’s more, after that they have somewhere else to go. It’s constant motion, wanting more, needing more, and moving to sustain a society that would crumble to dust if the inertia ever stopped. I haven’t been to other cities, but they’ve all come up under different circumstances and it’s wrong to assume that every city is the same. Some are developed through ports and trades and find their identity in accepting a different form of culture from those that arise through other means. Others become ‘the party city’, like New Orleans, a place I hold close to my heart. New Orleans is a beautiful city full of all sorts of wild animals. You have rats in all forms. Some come along as ‘street beggars’, who act like musicians or do whatever they must to earn a dollar. I met a man who claimed to be a time-traveler needing a few bucks to fix his machine and get back home. He said he saw the bloody days of the French Revolution, as he went on about the clean precision of the guillotine, which he believed to be well ahead of its time. Now, how could I deny a man like that a single dollar?

Every city possesses an identity that, although it is also subject to change, this is something all its own. No other town can be like New Orleans. They can be similar, but nothing can compare. Can it be said, if I’m proposing an identity for every city, that these same cities can possess their own destiny? We’ve often thought a town to be something different, where people make up its identity and nothing else. If this is true, then what do we make of a town with a destiny? If this is true, we must look at the world in a new light, for what could be said to be the destiny of a town like New Orleans after Hurricane Sandy? While we’re on the subject, what about towns with horrifying scars on their past, like Hiroshima, Auschwitz or… well, how about you guys give me some fun one?

Salem, Massachusetts is a fun one that I’ve actually visited. I enjoy the town, because you can walk around the streets and have all the presence of a normal person walking around a simple, puritan town. It has the feel that nothing has ever happened ever to leave a black mark on their record. If you go down the right corner you can see what is an alleged ‘haunted house’ that belonged to the former mayor during the Salem Witch Trials. For those who don’t know, the Salem Witch Trials were a period of mass hysteria when people were believed to be manipulated by dark forces and thus, had to be tortured. It’s something that none of us would ever want to endure and thinking of that time sends a chill of fear, as you realize that sensible people can be denigrated to monsters with a whim of hysteria and terror. Now, of course, it’s become a show. They use their story to entertain the world, establishing their ‘pirate museum’, as well as their ‘torture museum’, where they show the dungeons that some of the people were kept to stew in their dark powers. It’s all entertainment, yet, during that time, the paranoia and mass hysteria created a far more sinister identity.

As it goes for my city, I can see no destiny. I see what I wish it to be, sure, but as for an identity that the few thousand inhabitants would agree upon, well… it’s something I wouldn’t want to admit. It’s something ugly in, not only its laziness, but its apathy. I call it ‘The Eternal State of Boredom’. I’ve struggled to explain our identity to outsiders. You look in on our city and see a mess. You see nothing and that’s a fair point that comes to define who we are. We’ve nothing to manifest an identity, so we turn to the train. Tracks cut the city in half, yet none of us ever follow them out of here, far away, moving beyond toward a greater destiny than what we’ve been given for so long. If a city has a destiny, does it find it on its own? How does a city possess its own destiny? How do we help our city find where it belongs?

I’ve walked along these same tracks all my life. I’ve seen people and places change, all the while the city remained the same. The Eternal State of Boredom is a product of a mindset that has already given up. We’ve failed to change what we perceive to be of no importance. We’ve ignored the warnings of the world, as our city somehow sustains itself without falling into the abyss of time and impatience. Roanoke is another city with an interesting history. Its people abandoned it or so the story goes. Nobody knows what happened to the ‘lost colony’, although similar fates have come to several cities throughout history. Boom cities came up when gold was abundant in the western states, but when the gold disappeared so did the people. The cities remained. Everyone calls them ‘haunted’ now. Ancient cities had to be abandoned as well, when either their water source became depleted or marauders came and enslaved their people. We act like that can’t happen today, but really, it’s only the technology that’s advanced… and maybe the cities, but not the people.

It’s important to see different worlds before they disappear. For every city an identity. For every city a destiny. If you want, you can walk down South Street or any street, since the train goes through everyone’s backyard and sit and stare at the tracks. They run by at the same time each day, creating so much noise before it all disappears into the crippling nothingness of our culture. The trains are something to see, not exactly New Orleans or New York, but something in the least. A train is a relic of a time when man and technology forged an empire. They’re modern day petroglyphs, marking a city that might have to move on if it’s identity is somehow forgotten. Even worse, if the identity was never there in the first place. We sit in reverence of the trains, skipping stones along our quiet river, sharing a subtle appreciation for this Eternal State of Boredom.

Lost Cultures of Columbia Turnpike: Kmart

Here it is… your moment of zen.

For those who don’t remember (I haven’t written on this topic in a while), Columbia Turnpike is a long stretch of road that cuts through our town. I worked for many years in a store along this road. If you go up Columbia Turnpike now, you’ll see several abandoned buildings, some of which used to be thriving businesses or factories that helped to keep us afloat. Most of these factories packed up and left before I was born. These industries have an innate sense of survival. Unions gained momentum and threatened their ecosystem. The smart businesses went to China, while nothing became of those buildings… or the people who remained.

The fall of the Industrial Age has seen the rot of its decline seep into other facets of American life. Retail is no exception. The smart businesses aligned with China and other countries to get their wares for cheap, while exploiting labor that, while it might not be slave, still remains in question for morality’s sake. Factories shipped their business to other countries and invaded like a virus attacking a cell. You see this several times throughout history, especially with this being the time of ‘Giving Thanks’. The pilgrims left Europe, where they were certainly not welcome and had to kill many an ‘indigenous people’ to call this place home. It’s always been more a game of survival than anything…

I didn’t enjoy my time in retail, as is evident by the incessant nightmares that bubble up from time to time, where I feel the terror of being a part of that world. For those who haven’t endured it, I don’t know how to convince you of the terrible feelings that arise when I enter these places. I can’t walk into a Target or a Wal-Mart without feeling this sense of impending doom… most likely because I felt it for over a decade. I went into work without a sense that things could get better. Why should I? Every year that I was there things got worse. I grew accustomed to that feeling and, in all honesty, became numb. It’s the type of talk that a hardened soldier should use, not a man who worked far too long at a shitty store.

Again, I don’t know how to explain it. Sometimes hell is the same to people and sometimes it’s different. Retail was my hell. More specifically, Kmart was hell. My coworkers and I endured something altogether baffling, as we watched our corporate elites exploit the minimal resources we had. They squandered and destroyed, like any other invading army. The corporate world is no different. It’s full of sociopaths and pederasts. They visited our store from time to time, always with a firm handshake, something vulgar when it comes to their touch. Businessmen use the handshake to fuck one another, because a firm grip assumes something masculine. It’s perverse. I wish they’d fuck and get it over with!

Trust was never established between us at the store level and those in corporate, but it didn’t seem to matter. We watched our store rot away, losing more and more of itself. We knew what was happening, but it all came with this sense of being overpowered. It was helpless… a lost cause. I didn’t give a shit at the time. If they were going to let this place fall I couldn’t care. I wanted it, same as them. I think that makes me at least a little responsible. I worked with ineptitude, sure, but maintained a bare-minimum within that same work ethic. I did what I had to, not what I could, because going ‘above and beyond’ was something a fool would do. Why work harder when you knew the outcome? Why work harder when you knew you weren’t going to get a raise? Why work harder when you knew that corporate had you by the balls and were just waiting for the right moment to squeeze?

The day that lives in infamy within the retail stratosphere is known as ‘Black Friday’. Thanksgiving is a pretty terrible day as well, but nothing compares. If you’re looking for a way to lose faith in humanity… go sit in front of a store around 530 in the morning and wait. What the public doesn’t know about this day is that three workers our chosen at random from corporate to be sacrificed in an effort to appease the crowd. The names come down from headquarters. We have no say in the matter, although we hope that the most inept employee gets picked, sort of to ‘cleanse our ranks’, if you will. The number of those chosen actually depends on the number of workers per store. We didn’t have many, so they went with three… but I digress.

Three sacrifices are chosen a week before the event. We honor their sacrifices, making them honorary guests at a party all for them. We get them drunk and provide for them plenty of escapes from the realization. The affair is always solemn. You’re about to lose a friend and while you’re happy it’s not you… well, you have to make the best of things.

Thanksgiving day everything changes. We surround them in a dark room and pummel them with socks full of bars of soap. We beat them within inches of their lives, strip them naked and tie them to posts outside the store. This all starts around 12 at night. We have to get ready for the day… this terrible day. People are already waiting by that time. The smell of the rotting flesh, as the sacrifices begin to chill on the November air is something I’ll never forget. They sit for hours. People change in that time. They can’t help themselves. It takes only a few hours, as more and more people come along and wait in the lines, before they attack. The sacrifices do enough to distract the people from our store. It gives us enough time to prepare and hope not to be their next victims.

Around the time that they finish with the three sacrifices, our store is ready to open. We wait at the front behind the doors, until they open and we run for our lives. There’s something in that hunger that is altogether human. It’s desperate and pathetic and… just a shame. I think of what it could mean to have so many people together and have it mean something. Instead, they fight for video games and bath robes. I wonder what it all means, but it’s like trying to make sense out of the movements of those little fruit flies. For some things… you’re just not allowed to know.

The building is still around for those to see. I could’ve taken a picture of it, but I found this one all the more endearing. It’s a husk of its former glory. For some reason, I get a calming sensation whenever I look at this photo. I had to share it with you all. I think of it rotting and collapsing to dust and feel really good. Most people will never understand the significance of this temple. I’m probably one of them. Nothing can describe what we endured. Nothing can describe the true horror of those days. If you’re curious, I’m sure you’ll see and think back to that time with a sense of wonder and, if I’ve done my job, hopefully an open mind.

Tale of the Eternally Blinking Light

Time goes faster when you find something to do that you love. To the contrary, when you do something you hate, time takes forever. It wastes time, each time. We’ve come to understand that how we spend our time has to be understood. We have to appreciate the time we have, because we can’t always be doing what we love. Nobody enjoys waiting in traffic or sitting in boredom at your desk. In those moments, we allow time to slip away, as we imagine ourselves on beaches under the sun. We spend our time being happy, even when, in reality, we’re not.

At the intersection of Ring Street and South, there’s a traffic light that’s been blinking for the past two years. There’s still a stop sign at the end of Ring Street leading into South, although the light was constructed at least two years ago. The entire thing makes no sense, but it’s there. It exists, such as time, only constructed to perplex and confuse. Thinking about it is like trying to understand time and space, while existing in that same strata. Simply put, it cannot be done.

I don’t know how the world does it, but for all the money we claim not to have there’s an awful amount that we manage to waste. For those things that we’ve wasted our time, we have no choice but to call them sacred. If not, then we’ve lost so much. We lose that most sacred thing… our time on this earth. Between South and Ring Street, sits the ‘Eternally Blinking Light’. It just appeared one day out of nowhere, like the rest of us. Its existence is ours. We’re born from the same nothing that spawned the cosmos. It sits there blinking, one red and one green to each side, without a purpose. Nobody knows where it came from. Nobody knows. Some say it was put there as a warning for those who belong to a secret society. Some believe it was a waste of money. Others just ignore it, like everything else in the city.

The passage of time waits for no one. We’ve wasted enough time concerning what is sacred and what is nothing. For those that hold the light sacred, they hold a few ritual orgies at the beginning and the end of the month. They meet under the light for a few hours, give or take, depending on the traffic. It’s a sight to see… or be a part of… with so many bodies coming together, brought together by absolutely nothing. I guess time has a way of bringing us together. It offers us momentary glimpses of the sacred, before the illusion falls and we’re exposed for what we are.

I’d hate to think of my soul as an eternal tourist in this life. I’d like to think that I never belonged in this place or that. I think I’ll make my time as well deserved compost in this area eventually. If I get a say in the matter, bury me beneath the ‘Eternally Blinking Light’, where the orgies happen twice a month and if you look at the right moment up to the stars, you see the galactic battle between constellations we’ve named and stars that know nothing of their struggle.

Lights go down on South Street

People don’t bother with you on this street. You get your ‘hellos’ and go about your day. It can be quiet in the way of social chatter, but more than makes up for it in traffic. We have a road right outside our doorway. Eighteen wheelers drive by and it sounds like a tank barreling through the city. In my backyard, as well as on the other side of the white chain-link fence, are two train tracks. The train runs and makes a lot of noise, although I hardly notice the one going through my backyard. Further passed the train tracks, someone revs his engine all night long, either performing testing on his automobiles or trying to piss off the rest of us. He does a fine job of both, either way.

There isn’t much to see here, unless you enjoy watching traffic, either from cars or trains on their way to distant worlds. You can see the skyline of Albany from your porch, although you’re looking through electrical lines. If you look above all that mess, at least on this night, you see blue clouds shifting to purple. They move along, like the traffic. I see them coming in darker and darker. I see purple clouds just over the horizon. This city exemplifies the phrase ‘life passing you by’. All the clamor of engines, tires against pavement, steel dragging heavy locomotives to distant worlds that most of us will never see. We remain. We live in the city where everything passes and nothing stays.

I’m writing about this night, because of the storm. It brought on something I’ve never seen. It was a beautiful sight that can only come from reverence of that natural force that guides everything in the universe. Call it what you want, but it works better without a label. On this night this most benevolent forced called the bugs to dance around the streetlights and perform ritual sacrifices. I’ve only seen a few Praying Mantises in my life. I’ve always thought they were cool looking and had to study them for a while whenever they crossed my path. For whatever reason, there have been dozens of these things all around our city. They came out of nowhere and flooded our streets. They flew around and you couldn’t tell what the massive blobs of green were, until they landed on your car or dangled from a tree.

Along the stretch of white fence, the streetlights shine just as bright as any other road, but something has happened to two of them that makes them shut off for about thirty seconds to a minute. The two at the far sides, one to the North and the other to the South, always remain on. It’s the two in the middle that take turns shutting down. It happens in succession, where one will go out and then another.

In the height of the Praying Mantises growth, the creatures would fly around these brilliant orbs of light, as if they represented some celestial force that moved everything into place. When one light went out they’d go to another and so on and so forth. Beetles and other bugs joined in, although some were made into ritual sacrifices. Others, the mantises allowed to dance in honor of the brilliant light, at least for the time. The bugs cannibalized each other. Mantises ate beetles, beetles ate anything smaller, anything smaller drank the blood of my neighbors. It’s one great big cycle that, no matter who we are, we’re a part of.

Everyone’s enjoying the festival of carnal pleasure, until, in one perfect flux, the light goes out for the entire street. It’s not something terribly significant to any of us, but to the praying mantises and for me, it became an ordeal worth further documentation. It took a keen eye to see what happened to all those bugs floating around that radiant essence. They scattered so fast it was hard to tell that they were still there. The light still burned in my eyes. I could see the little black dots against the backdrop of darkness. It might’ve been just an illusion, but it seemed the bugs were trying to remain as still as possible. They scattered and fled in terror. The festival was over and the time to hide from predators was upon them. Trees stood beneath the lights in great bushels. They could fall into the canopies and get lost, hopefully, to avoid any danger. If they made it in time they could wait out the storm and pray for the light to return.

The storm came in with rain and long, white bursts of lightning. They felt so close and hit with such a loud impact that the power went out. Everything went dark. My neighborhood was forced to watch the sacred display. Whatever force it is that guides us in this world, it wanted us to see. Darkness washed over the land. It took with it all forms of life. In that moment, the world was dead. The coffin closed. We breathed into the dirt and darkness ate the remains. You don’t realize what you make of yourself when you’re lights are always on. You become a target. When you’re out in the darkness is when you’re free. It represents something in our psyche, something primordial, something we fear. I think it’s more that ‘return to darkness’ that we fear. Humanity’s come along way from hunting for survival. The light is something we own now, instead of it owning us. It’s become our greatest mission. Humanity is responsible for protecting the light.

When order restored, as it always does, the bugs rejoiced. The mantises returned, dancing around the light. They ate each other, they performed ritualistic orgies of blood and sexuality for which humanity could never understand. That part of us died with the dinosaurs. Such desperation is animal. Something we’ve forgotten. If only the lights would go out. Every light, every television, every bit of energy that fuels this world. Let it go out for a few seconds. Let us sit in darkness for a few seconds and wonder what became of the world we knew only a moment ago. Then, perhaps, we can relate.