My 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.
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”. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raconteur 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”. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anecdote 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.
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.
I expect to live in a country where we’re allowed to make up words… just don’t expect my sympathy when you’re subpoenaed for a military tribunal. You can’t expect to commit such an audacious crime and express yourself without consequence. We all should have reasonable concern for those who make up language, because they go beyond our reasonable interpretations and make up their own. What if that’s all that language is? What if we’re clinging to a vocabulary that only makes sense to us? You could be talking in your own words, as if every conversation is between you and your imaginary friend! Then, there are those words that lose their meaning over time. If they don’t disappear entirely, that is, they become something else. They’re just words without any symbolism in our psyche to cling to and further themselves into the future. This is written in honor of those words.
Doesn’t ‘Masha-Rein-A-Ma-Doo-A-Ma-Da’ sound suspiciously like an Irish version of the N.W.A. song ‘Fuck the Police’? No… it’s just ‘Whiskey in the Jar’. The tale is about a highwayman who robs a British official, then comes home to find his wife cheating… not just cheating, but having sex with said British official. A-masha rein a-ma-doo a-ma-da!
The Ballad of Brother Bear:
(Now, remember it is a ballad and you must repeat ‘Masha-Rein-A-Ma-Do-A-Ma-Da’ as often as you wish) Lookin’ to the stars one night, I see ol’ brother bear, whose grinnin’, snearin’, snarlin’ teeth warned give’a bit’a care. For ‘neath the seamly starry sky I prayed for sweet surrender to cast down on the land of Tul and any mine offender. Beneath the glisten, guiding stars shines light to sling and pebble, ask God to grant me ‘gregious sin in blood be born the rebel. Takin’ sling and steady fast to rabid, dreadful creature, an’ as he spotted his demise I sent him to the preacher. Walkin’ with this wondrous night I thought against my blunder, for hopin’ for a wish fulfilled and saintly sinful plunder. But as I entered to my home I heard the head-board rattlin’ and lyin’ deeds of sweet Elise, our creaking bed was tattlin’. I walked in with an angered roar, and neither could be bothered, as sweet Elise was in delights, which she had ever wondered. Takin’ Tommy from my wall I let off two-click’s thunder, Ol’ sweet Elise arose from bed, t’was Brother Bear she’s under. That bastard bear, he smiled, with the wicked scar upon him, it seemed despite my murd’rous ways my wish was lookin’ grim. Readied wretched weapon toward the twinkle in his eyes, quick to catch the fates, who would make turn with my surprise. For as I readied him to death it was my sweet Elise, who would not let ol’ Brother Bear unto his damned release. She cried and poured her love upon him, ‘spite our sacrament, and even in his wicked deed ’tis I could not lament. His eyes upon me, in this moment we could see the humor and we could laugh as brothers, who should’a let the joke go sooner…….
There you go… a bear fucked his girl-friend… have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
“To be radical is to go to the root and the root is man.” -Erich Fromm
Memory is this great big root that’s different in all of us, because we all have different experiences that allow it to grow stronger, dig deeper and compel our spirits toward the future. Causalities arise because of the root, which is somehow connected between body and mind and held strong by remembering this connection. In some, the memory is not so strong and the root is maintained, while it doesn’t offer any form of extenuation that would otherwise help it grow. Instead, the root maintains a solitary path without the minute branches that would allow it to thrive.
These minute branches are what maintain certain pockets of resistance against the memory that strengthens the connection between body and mind. There’s often significant memories lost in the mire of these small branches, although it can also be tedious moments out of our lives that the mind sees no reason to remember. If you focus on a memory it grows like a weed. It can overwhelm the powerful root of all your memories and before you know it nothing of your past is remembered beyond this single weed that has grown out of control.
It’s a selective process, but in order to ensure that no single weed overwhelms it, the mind works to cut away these branches and keep itself as sturdy as possible. There’s no telling which memory will be the next to assume the mantel of authority inside you, as the mind has no way of clarifying which connection is right or wrong. It just connects. Something connects and a weed grows out of control. There’s no honorable mention. Everything just happens without causality.
It’s a selective memory that rules the world and it starts with every root within every person. We cling to these memories inside us and the root is sustained, while we forget certain things about ourselves. As long as we remember who we are, everything is fine. However, we might miss these branches, for they provide the details that no one else will ever understand, except for you. It’s very personal. Only you can determine the worth of a memory. Otherwise, you’re just a man or woman, a person, a living thing with wrinkles under your eyes to show your age, like the rings of a tree.
The little things about you are what connect these roots to the outside world. They connect us, because out there in the distance is another branch of another person’s root who wants nothing more than to connect. The roots are unique and yet, somehow, out of the vastness of the cosmos, they find a way to connect with other roots that infest this universe. It might be a singular connection, a point in reality where two distant bodies meet, but it’s still significant, because two roots that meant nothing to the world somehow find their way. All signs pointed to the roots drying out under the sun, like a worm that came up for too long after a storm, but somehow, they beat the odds and proved to the cosmos that they belonged.
If we choose not to acknowledge this connectivity it disappears. The roots don’t go away, however, but the chance to connect is gone. It creates this horrible gnarled appearance out of the roots, as one reaches out to the other, while the other pulls away. They offer their warmth against the cold expanse of the cosmos and are refused. Their roots die out. They gave too much of themselves in order to reach you. Even you, in acknowledging this connectivity, will lose a bit of yourself. You’ll never regain this connection if it goes ignored for too long. The energy between you will die out and the world will move on.
The connection isn’t always easy to spot, but when you do, it’s most likely because of these branches that connect to the thick root of our memory. You lose some of yourself over the years and maybe that makes the root into a coarse thing full of barbs and nooses, something that appears far more treacherous than it is.
Two neighbors, Aldus Grim and Mekhi the Red, choose hatred over what they share in common. For some, hatred provides for them a sense of importance, which I think strengthens the will of the deeply ingrained root of their memories. In this way, they are connected, although their hatred will never bring them together. I think that maybe they just don’t see. Aldus the Grim used to be exactly like Mekhi the Red. Aldus got a girl pregnant very young. He was a punk and never quite grew out of it. The difference is in age and experience. Aldus worked his entire life to support his family, while Mekhi is at the very beginning, with two kids and two jobs. His girlfriend works as well, but has another child wrestling around in her belly. Aldus had three children and now lives alone. His wife died only a few years ago. The constant appearance of misery on his face never really changed, not with her death, not with anything I can remember. Alcohol helped him through the misery and Mekhi is much the same. He’ll have his parties, which get too loud for Aldus, who usually calls the cops.
Their connection is to keep away from one another, because they know that they share a branch of reality. One is the future. The other is the past. They are one within the same cycle. They work hard to stay away so that they don’t have to acknowledge their condition. Whether they should be coming together, well, who can say for sure? You’d like it to be possible for Aldus to reach out and help, maybe seeing some of himself in this young man who went down the same path as him, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Maybe it’s because that connection to himself, and not to Mekhi the Red, died long ago. Maybe the root is reaching out through Mekhi, trying to reach him, as his root withers into the future. Maybe it’s his past self calling out, begging him to understand that he was a young fool once. Now, he’s an old fool and the moment is gone. It’s much simpler to believe that youthful version of you no longer exists. He had to refuse it in order to survive and thus, it no longer exists.
A Whale Fall is when a whale nears the end of his life and decides to commit his body to an abyssal zone, which is a relatively deep area within the ocean, where he collapses and rots into the floor. The amazing thing is the life that comes about because of his death. Scavengers feed and multiply and thus, a cycle evolves and, as follows, an ecosystem. It comes from the husk of this beautiful creature, which commits itself to this place upon sensing its own demise.
I walked into my friend, Milky G’s, ancestral home. It was a place that he’d grown up, raised as a boy, well after his father left. He’d never known his father, although his mother had a few partners. None of her partners stuck around and he was left with her to care for him. She would die from a drug overdose when he was around the age of ten. After that, his grandmother took care of him, along with a few other members of his family. His uncle and grandfather also died in this house. I don’t know how much death it takes for a house to be considered haunted, but certainly, if there were ghosts to infect the city it would be here.
It was his grandmother who, being the only one to survive, after seeing two of her children die, not to mention a third who died years ago in childbirth, decided to raise him. Unfortunately, she was one of the great enablers of her time and thus, spoiled a young Milky G. He found out long ago that he could get away with murder, at least in her eyes, and when other family members would try to punish him she would intervene. She did the best she could for him, but the world and everything in it was rotting around them. We couldn’t see it then, but the chipped paint and gnarled corners with nails jutting out that tore open our arms and shoulders as careless young men who ran down the halls should’ve served as warnings.
The utter lack of interest in the twelve people who lived there should’ve been a dead giveaway. Nobody wanted to work on it, because it would’ve cost more than the house was worth. Towards what would be the end of his family’s time in this house, Milky G would be the last one in the house. The thing is that Milky G wasn’t handy. Within a few weeks, the plumbing seeped into the basement and after hours of trying to fix it, he finally had to call an expert. The second floor bathroom leaked into his first floor apartment and the water damage was everywhere. Tiles had to be removed and it left empty spaces in his ceiling. The floor of the bathroom mutated a putrid yellow and brown, which came out much clearer against the white ceramic tiles, which chipped and left the grey floor showing underneath.
Milky G wasn’t set on saving the house, but he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He had to make it work, because he had no idea what to do with himself. He never bothered with college, which was probably a fair assessment of his skills. He’d never been a good student. He never put the effort into studying, reading, understanding for him to be successful. It was much easier for him to be the clown. Becoming a clown for everyone was a mode of self-preservation, which claimed his entire life. He wasn’t good at telling jokes or making people laugh. He just… was a trickster. He manipulated and conned and, although people should’ve been mad, it never worked and usually ended in a catastrophic blunder. It’s terrible to think about it, but his life was a long-running, much more depressing episode of ‘The Three Stooges’.
He thought he was tough. He thought he was a force to be reckoned with, but none of that was true. He knew it, but refused to accept it. Several times, he was forced to acknowledge who he was and, although he surrendered every time, deep down it tore him apart. Deep down, Milky G wanted to be something so much more. I don’t know what he wanted to be… maybe he didn’t know either, but he understood that although he was this person, it isn’t who he should be.
Although it shouldn’t it most certainly was and he would never escape it. When I returned to his ancestral home years down the road, Milky G greeted me at the front porch. The porch is made of three concrete steps that are cracked and falling apart. Someone painted over them without sealing the cracks, so now the paint oozes into the slivers of broken ground. Milky G smokes a cigarette and stares at the other side of the road. The problem is there’s nowhere to stare. You can’t look down the road, across the street, a few blocks away, because you’ll be staring into someone’s apartment or right in their face and that’s just god damn rude.
He’s staring at his neighbors sitting on their porch. They don’t seem to notice his gaze, but he stares for most of the time that he’s talking. This entire block used to be full of people our age. They got old. They moved away. They found bigger and better things. Milky G let his cigarette burn out, before tossing it into a can next to the stairs. He led me into his home. The front hall light doesn’t work, but there’s enough light that we can make our way to his apartment. The scent of stale cigarettes and trash bombard my nostrils. The room is tossed, destroyed beyond all repair, as if it’d been raided. I don’t even notice at first that there’s a baby on a bed that’s just placed in the center of the room, amidst trash and rubble and filth and depravity and utter, ugly vulgarity that, although we claim we’re decent creatures, does exist and never, ever should. It’s one of the most horrifying sights I’ve seen and, for the life of me, I can’t believe the tranquility of this innocent baby boy. He’s far too young to understand. Ma and Pa needed an accomplice in life, so they decided to yank him out of that ethereal slumber beyond time and space. It’s not fair, but that’s the god damn cycle.
His girlfriend, Slinky Nostrils, was one of the most annoying creatures I’d ever known. When you’re young and you’re annoying people expect it, but when you’re old or have a child and you’re still this person it’s just infuriating. I know you can’t be expected to grow up in a matter of minutes. Logically, these are things I understand, but seeing the child nestled snugly in filth and debris… I’m glad I didn’t take a picture.I’m glad I can’t show you, although it’s an image I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Milky G tried opening a door into one of the rooms, but there was too much junk on the other side. He put his shoulder into it, before it budged and he could reach in and grab a clean shirt. Clean is not a word for anything in this place. He walks me out to the kitchen, where I see a large pit-bull in a cage. He owed someone money, as was often the case, and now had to care for his dog. That explained some of the smell at least, although I hadn’t noticed the smell of piss until we walked into the kitchen. The dog had apparently grown tired of waiting to be taken out and instead peed in his cage. Milky G threw down a few old newspapers to soak it up, but there were no windows to let out the smell, so here it would stay.
He opened the back door and let the dog run down the stairs. We could hear it barking and then another dog joined, as they ran along the fence, knocking it back and forth to get at each other. Milky G walked onto the back porch and lit another cigarette, as he watched his friend’s dog running along the chain-link fence. It had only about ten feet of fence to work with, so had to go back and forth. The neighbor’s dog did the same and it went on like that for a few minutes, before he turned back to me.
Milky G. The weight of his eyes is something I’d never want to measure. He thought he’d be great. He believed with all his heart. The lights on the back porch don’t work. I remember when we were young that one of his uncles got electrocuted trying to turn it on. Several of the lights don’t work and the sockets are frayed, broken and eager to ignite in a magnanimous fire that would get rid of this building once and for all. The only thing standing in its way is Milky G. The only one keeping this building from certain doom is a man who could barely pass gym class.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a word that was said between us and, now that I look back, I don’t think any of it mattered. I have no idea how long I stayed. This place has a power about it, like one of many kingdoms of the Underworld. When I left, the sun was still out. The baby was still on the bed lined with garbage, but his mother was changing his diaper. I’m not rude enough to leave without saying goodbye, so I must’ve done that. I remember noticing on my way out that the ceiling was leaking outside the bathroom, at least enough that I could see the brown spot growing in the hall. I can’t think about that spot without imagining a biblical flood.
Milky G thought himself a great man, but that never came into being. His success was one of mass production. Countless Milky G’s roam the streets of, not just our town, but cities nationwide. They’re men who believe they’re greater than they actually are and have never given a proper assessment of their abilities. It’s a dangerous world that they create, because it has always sustained itself without a question. They worship the whale fall, because it gives meaning to this cycle. It promises that in death they will find meaning. It promises that their lives aren’t pointless. While I can’t deny this, I couldn’t see the point to Milky G. I don’t know why life seemed to take a particular appreciation in tormenting him every step of the way, but we all like to think that life enjoys kicking our asses more than the other. I mean… what about the whale?
This is a story dedicated to… not just a manager… but a person of interest in a world that is evolving every second that we’re a part of it. Whether it changes for good or evil… well… who’s to say for sure?
Sweaty, heavy breather, pained eyes hidden in cordiality, fragility, manager’s forced smile, talks in company slogans, insignificant, only a danger to those beneath him, only a danger to himself, has no self, none of significance, yet the duality of his corporate self and that dark creature within create such volatility, his presence is revolting, the duality creates a horrifying fragility to
Middle Manager Tom.
Thinning strands of hair on Tom’s head – shiny red skin – bald – vacation in Bermuda, one week off, fifty-one on, wife and kids smile – Tom the Dad on the right, them on the left
Murder – Tom sacrifices wife and children to dark gods, bathes in their blood, dances in ritual in honor of the moon – economic slave, to sacrifice and break the shackles
Fat gut – deprecations
Of body and spirit
Nobody talks about ‘the underworld’ these days. I find that disturbing. I love the pictures drawn out of ancient mythology of new worlds that you can pass through only by making some chilling sacrifice to prove that you belong. I’ve been considering the sacrifices we make every day to belong. We get a little older, sacrificing our youth so that we might stay a little longer. We get comfortable with loss and learning what to lose. You sacrifice a little bit of that youthful energy and hopefulness so that you might exist in this realm for a while longer.
Ask yourself, “What have I done to prove that I belong?”
It’s the same for when you want to buy drugs. It’s never an easy endeavor. Sure, we could legalize it and all this underground tom-foolery would dissipate within a matter of months… but we don’t have time for rational suggestions. Instead, we have to preserve the underground. It’s an environment unlike any other, with its own set of rules that have to be followed. It can be dark, mysterious, mischievous and down-right shady, but it has to exist. There are demands that the world of the living cannot meet. For that, you have the underground.
My dealer is a relatively normal guy. He just talks a damn lot about shit that I don’t care about. The price you pay for entering the underworld is having to listen for hours on end. Your sacrifice is made ever-so much more difficult by the fact that he won’t give you any drugs while you’re listening. You have to sit there stone-sober, as he rattles off trivial minutiae that he notices on a daily basis. It’s like meeting a character out of a children’s fable: you can’t cross the bridge without answering a few riddles. He just seems like a lonely guy living out a riddle of his own. He has dozens of friends and yet he has no friends. Plenty of people come to see him, yet nobody stays. Every creature within the underworld must live by the laws that govern. He follows a curse, for although he provides for the underworld a source of great power, he, in himself, possesses none.
I listen for a while. He believes in ancient aliens. He believes they built up mankind as a sort of cattle. He thinks we’re being moved in place and the earth is one great big farm. It’s weird that these theories always find some bearing on our souls, something familiar to embed in our psyches, like a god damn tick. I can’t forget the idea of the ancient aliens. Part of me would really love to relax and believe whatever. It settles into you. Doesn’t anyone else notice the parasitic nature of belief? A tick doesn’t rest. It bites down and chews. It’s chomping through you with all its might. You might feel it as an itch, but on the part of the tick its intent is malicious. It wants to survive. It HAS to survive.
Once he runs out of steam you’ve passed the test presented by the underworld. You’re free to escape. He works through the conversation and reveals vast treasures of the underworld. He gathers them up in sandwich bags, ties them up and presents them to you without a riddle. I don’t even know the question. I take what I’ve come for and leave, like any businessman, I offer a proper handshake and goodbye. He never seems to care that you go, as he folds over onto his couch and continues watching whatever is on the television. It’s usually cartoons or the History channel.
Where I compose my scriptures can define this town, like Jesus’s sermon on a mount in a place that I can’t really comprehend. I know nothing of that time. Even in reading something out of a history book… reading and being are not one in the same. You have to feel it. I felt hell the other day. Hell is a karmic flow of energy when it tilts towards the negative. I’ve been tilting towards the negative all my life. I thought it was the worst, but it gets even better. The nightmare of life is what I’m talking about. If you don’t know, I’ll try to describe it as best I can.
For starters, we built the pyramids. It wasn’t ancient aliens. It wasn’t God. It was us. Skilled artisans crafted it with meticulous precision. A man with an intimate knowledge of how this should look drew up the plans. The plans were followed by workers who knew how to give instructions, while going along with the plans of the person above them. The workers followed in point. Laborers stacked the damn stones on top of each other based on what their bosses told them to do. It seems like such a simple explanation, but there’s really not that much to it. We built the pyramids.
Karmic justice is based on this same principle. Every nightmare is an inevitability, as well as every fantasy. We can’t comprehend in this life the consequences of the next, because we only know this life. Knowledge, no matter how powerful, has limitations. Those limitations expire when you die. When you die, you move to another wisdom. Some might say it’s a ‘greater wisdom’, but really it’s just another step along the path of something we’ll probably never, ever understand.
It’s not wisdom in the sense of knowing. Knowing attaches limitations. In this life, I refuse to believe in God. I refuse to follow a religion, because people have yet to relinquish the atavistic sense of the self. We’ve not reached that point of perfection that allows us to judge one another for what we consider a sin. Even in sharing what I’ve seen, it’s limited by senses that my mind views from a time that has such a limited, narrow scope. I mean… why the fuck would any of you listen to me?
The Vision: I lived out such a short life that it had to be lived over and over again. This was hell. I was dropped into a terrarium with glass walls, roughly two feet wide, although space and time seemed irrelevant at this point. All that mattered was survival. We fell into a terrarium and our sole purpose was to die. A massive lizard came to ensure the price of our sin was paid. Heaven for the lizard meant hell for the cricket. Hundreds of us… imagine that… and N-O-N-E of us would survive. The creature tore one man apart. If you could see the horror on the man’s face and understand the true nature of anguish. The lizard was so damn happy, as he roamed the confines of this prison. This was paradise to him.
A young boy is God to the lizard. He’s so happy when he feeds him, but the lizard looks to him with veneration and terror. How can you not? The boy is massive.. roughly four feet tall. He grabs the lizard from the terrarium and lifts him to the boy’s heart. The poor lizard hovers in the air. Four feet off the ground is a mighty fall for such a minute figure. In this case, when you see the lizard between the tiny fingers of the young boy, you think that… our scale for all that we know is off. The boy is massive. The lizard is small in comparison. I’m at the bottom. I’m a cricket waiting to die in a terrarium full of sinners like me.
What is my sin? How do I prove to God that I don’t deserve to be here?
Proof… it’s not what we think. You don’t bow down and pray and make everything better. I learned that the hard way, as I waited for the young man… who seemed eternal, indomitable… at least as I lived as a cricket, to return the lizard. Proof that you deserve to live is in living. Fight for survival. I have nowhere to run. This is hell. This is to suffer. My mission is whatever I god damn feel. I feel terror. The lizard returned. He was bored for now. He shit out a few of my friends, as most of us cowered in the corner. I found the remains of some unlucky cricket resting at my feet. It was half an abdomen and a bit of a leg. He died without a name. It shows you what’s really worth a damn in this world. All your names and disappear with death.
Vision: I’m a worm. You’re never warm as a worm. Nobody understands that worms rule the earth. There are massive worms deep within the crest of the earth. The core itself is made up of one giant worm that has rolled himself into a knot. One day, he took a bite out of his tail and, in struggling to break free, made the knot even worse. He tried to eat himself and couldn’t stop. He wrapped himself around in one great big knot and this became our core. The friction of his body creates the super-heated essence, the delicate ether that has supported life for countless millennia.
The core is the mind. It moves everything. We think we have free will and absolute control of our destiny, but this is one great big lie. The core has control. It’s responsible for global catastrophes. It’s responsible for great works of art. You can look to any painting, any scripture, anything vital, anything destructive… you have the core to thank. It moves us based on a whim within itself… this is survival. The core wants to survive, just like I did when I was a cricket. The worms move with the seasons, which depend on the position for which they belong within the levels of the earth. There are entire ecosystems within the planet that we’ve yet to understand. There are black holes, which I can’t explain right now, just because I don’t have the time. There’s just so damn much to this universe and I’m just a god damn worm.
I’m a worm. I move through the earth blind, because I have no need to see. All I feel and know is cold. I’m moving along with the rhythm of the earths core, when I feel that jolt of energy, the essence, prana, ether, rippling through the earth. The delicate vibration can’t be explained, because it doesn’t belong to the core. It belongs to me. It’s within me. I’m moved by my own vibration. It’s a confusing feeling to be in control, especially when I have no mind. I have no face, but I believe I understand how I look. I have an image of myself and for the first time I see it. I’m ugly. I’m hideous. Years of chewing away at the earth has made my face a rounded off nub with no features. I’m featureless, because I decide to eat on an endless path, shitting along the way, trailing my mess behind me, as I carry out my quest.
I have no sense of direction. I break free of the earth and reach that other strata. A worm, if he had a basic understanding of a ‘religious experience’, would believe that he reached heaven. The sky opens in a light blue above me. I feel warmth for the first time. I’m blind, but I feel the sun. I don’t know it’s the sun. I feel it and know it all the same. In this context the sun is God, but what is the dagger?. The next phase is me squirming along the ground, because I can’t find the point of entry for me to escape into the ground. A crow jabs its sharp beak, which pierces our rubbery flesh like a dagger and picks up several worms and keeps them in his mouth. I can’t see him. I feel his sharp beak prodding. He tears me in half and two broken pieces of my self litter the ground. I feel nothing. The crow abandons me and steals more of my friends. I hear their moans of unremitting torment.
“This is the eternal torment of the Lord”… so sayeth the worm.
A sun shower is something altogether nightmarish, but for some reason we carry a sense of relief and hope when it comes. I’m brought to the surface, watching several other worms with faces, as their plucked free of the earth and swallowed by the crow. It flies off. We’re left alone. The crow is not God. I have a deeper understanding, for what I feel is beyond all that I’ve known. I feel the sun. I can’t see it, but I feel. It feels so great on my rubbery skin, until that vital essence inside me runs dry and I feel the truth. My body withers. The sun eats me alive. This is God. It isn’t the core. It isn’t the sun. It’s the constant movement of karmic justice. The core will wither away. So will the sun. So will the worm and crow and cricket and lizard.
Where is God? The pulse. The trigger. The heart-beat. It pumps blood from one second to the next. When it stops, when the flow is severed and we bleed out from an irreparable laceration… where is God. When everything goes silent. When everything ends. When we don’t have the capacity to question.
I return. Eternal return. I’m the pharaoh. I built the pyramid. I preached a bunch of bullshit, not because I knew it, but because this is the wisdom I’ve inherited. Pharaoh after pharaoh claimed the rank of God. Now, I return. Eternal return. I walk the steps shaped at such an odd angle, because, at this time, people believed that maintaining a direct link to certain stars and constellations allowed a man to possess some greater power than he deserves. I believe this, because this is the wisdom we’ve inherited. We’ve passed it on, generation to generation. As to what the generation that follows will believe, I have no say. I won’t make it. I can’t see beyond this point. This is the end. Eternal Return.