Friday, December 30, 2016


I was waiting for a bus the other day ago when a couple walked near me, stopped as they looked through their pockets and bags, then started walking again.

She looked back and said, "You don't have any rolling papers, do you?"

I said, "No."

She smiled and said, "Twenty years ago, maybe?"

I said, "Thirty, maybe."


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Autobobography XII—Not Dark Yet

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

That quote and this post weren’t intended to be about the election, but it would certainly apply. I’ve never been someone who cared too much about other people’s opinion of me, but I have always tried to make clear that I wasn’t part of the establishment white men. I’ve mostly stuck with the appearance of my youth—jeans, beard, long hair—throughout my life, but now I’m an old white man at a time when many consider them the enemy or something to be afraid of. 

I’ve found myself wondering what t-shirt slogan would be good to adopt to reassure people. I thought of Better Dead than Red and discovered that it’s already been used in multiple versions, and let’s face it, that might make some of the gun nuts start taking target practice. Then I came up with one which at first glance doesn’t appear on the internet in this sense—Old, White, and Blue—and which works on several levels. If I were starting a new blog, that’s what I’d name it.

Now on to the originally scheduled post. I can imagine people reading this and thinking, whoa, that’s pretty damn dark! So let’s stipulate from the beginning that dark here is a synonym for dead. 

Through my life, I’ve had generally good health, usually more due to genetics than much effort on my part, and know that many better people were dead long before reaching my age. My biggest physical problem has been kidney stones. I’ve just gotten over my fifth case of them, and the first which resulted in surgery (more because of poor medical care than necessity in my opinion). It was my first surgery since I had my tonsils out. I spent a very unhelpful day in the emergency room in mid-October which I wrote about here, then out of desperation when my preferred cheaper and simpler (and successful on all previous occasions) treatment of steady IV fluids and strong painkillers was not even attempted, I wound up gassed, scoped, lasered, and stented in mid-November. I gave thanks when the incredibly painful stent was removed a couple days before Thanksgiving, though my prostate issues seem to have gotten worse in the aftermath of all this.

The only good thing about the past month was that the pain and lack of appetite brought me under 200 pounds for first time in five years. Of course, Thanksgiving and my first beers in a month put an end to that, but I’m hoping to drop back down soon.

Emotionally, life has always been a struggle for me. I remember holding a knife to my wrist as a teenager—not seriously considering suicide (and though I’ve always considered it my likely end if I live long enough, I’ve never attempted it) but thinking that it would be a relief to be rid of all the pain. Many childhoods are worse, but mine would never be described as good and I think between that and the flipside of those genetics, I never had much of a chance at an average life.

I decided while a teenager that I didn’t want children, or much else from a typical American Dream life. I never wanted a house, never accumulated much stuff other than books and records, and I always hated driving until I gave it up for good in my late twenties. My main philosophy was that I wanted to do as little damage to the world as possible while alive (not easy given how destructive our U.S. lives are).

I’ve gotten along but I never had any ambition to do anything in particular because I never really believed that it was possible for anything good to happen, so trying to reach some goal was pointless. I spent my life playing defense, trying to avoid extra pain because just getting through each routine day was difficult enough. I learned that falling in love was nice, but I wasn’t equipped to handle the breakups—almost dropping out of college during my senior year was just the first example. So I decided it was safer to try to keep myself blocked off from the only kind of intimacy where I was ever completely comfortable with another person. Nonhumans have always gotten most of my affection; I’d love to be living with a cat again but circumstances and age make that a bad idea so I get my animal fix where I can.

My former therapist (a non-MD) once offered me a referral if I was interested in antidepressants. Like almost all modern pharmaceuticals, I wanted nothing to do with them. I always knew that my depression was at least as much a worldview as a chemical issue, and though it certainly deeply and negatively affected my life I never suffered the complete debilitation that those who truly need the drugs do. My issue was closer to what a Swiss suicide clinic refers to as weariness of life—I’ve always been profoundly disturbed by the behavior of my species, and increasingly tired of seeing what I care about destroyed.

Perhaps I need to reassure that this is not a suicide note. If I were ready, I would have done myself in during the past month rather than deal with all the physical kidney pain and the ongoing embarrassing horror of the asshole who won the electoral college.

Reading, listening to music, and looking at the Lake usually keeps me content enough, but I have no interest in ever living blind, or in a wheelchair, or having major surgery. Hell, I don’t even want to work full time anymore, and I’m not at all sure I can force myself to keep earning enough to keep a roof over my head until I can start collecting social security.

I do think suicide should be a much more easily available and dignified option for people. Beyond the glaring fact that the planet needs a lot fewer humans on it, people deserve the same sort of treatment pets receive. If the time comes when I want to avoid pointless pain and decay or I can’t take seeing more of the natural world damaged, I should be able to do that on my terms simply and peacefully in my home with music and photos of my life, or looking at the Lake or the Rockies or the Atlantic. I shouldn’t have to use violence or a gun—if I kill myself, it won’t be out of self-hatred, but from disappointment.

This concludes this series of boring stories of glory days.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Getting Warmer

Four ships on the Lake this morning,

Bald eagle in a tree above, harassed by crows.

Tin soldiers and Trump is coming,

Amerikkka’s reality TV,

Kardashian VP? No need,

First lady has fake bimbo covered.

O Canada, my cries of passion,

Grab me by the penis,

Annex me! Annex me! Annex me!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The New National Anthem

I'm no fan of Clinton; only something like Trump could have made me vote for her. He is scum, ignorant and incompetent, and completely unqualified for the job. 

This is a very dangerous moment in history, a go back in time and kill Hitler moment. Unfortunately, most of the gun nuts voted for him.

I've never had a high opinion of the U.S. public, but it's never been lower.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Autobobography XI—Things Have Changed

I’ll run through some of my favorite Dylan music which I thought of when I started writing this series but haven’t mentioned in previous posts. Blowin’ in the Wind was his first classic. It’s hard for me to get back to the hopeful naivety which provides its power, but still a classic. Like a Rolling Stone led off one of his finest albums, Highway 61 Revisited, with its aching tale of karma, loss, harsh reality, and homelessness. A couple songs later comes It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, a great shuffling piano and harmonica blues. 

Positively 4th Street: I’ve never personally felt this degree of disgust with an individual but here’s one of the greatest putdowns ever, concluding a song full of them-- “I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes, you’d know what a drag it is to see you” Just Like a Woman: I think of it as a beautiful touching song but it pissed off a lot of feminists. Dylan was happy to egg them on by occasionally changing a lyric to “she bakes just like a woman”.

The mid-70s was my favorite Dylan period, highlighted by what most people consider his best album, Blood on the Tracks. I’m one of those people, even with the nine minute mistake of Lily, Rosemary, & the Jack of Hearts which doesn’t fit with the rest of album which is filled with heartache that seems more real and personal rather than overtly fictional characters. Idiot Wind was a favorite song at the time. I can remember snarling along with anger and misanthropy and jealousy and self-loathing even back then. The next album Desire wasn’t quite as good but Emmylou Harris’s vocals and Scarlet Rivera’s violin made for a memorable sound. 

The 1975 Rolling Thunder tour which featured many of the songs from these two albums is captured on a release in the official bootleg series. These high energy fast songs (reportedly driven by lots of speed) aren’t the definitive versions but they’re interesting versions; it’s not a favorite of some people but at least his vocals are understandable. I also have three cds of live Dylan concert versions of songs from Blood on the Tracks which were put together by fans.

The born again religious period made me stop paying attention to Dylan releases so I didn’t notice Oh Mercy at the time it was released. It was a Chris Smither cover of What Was It You Wanted which made me finally check out the album. I liked the sound which producer Daniel Lanois provided and have a cd of alternate takes; some didn’t like Lanois’s production and Dylan apparently had issues with him, yet he used him again to produce another of my favorite albums, Time Out of Mind. That one was released while I was managing a college bookstore where I chose the music, which one student said always made coming into the store interesting because of the variety. I remember telling people I considered this Dylan’s best album since Blood on the Tracks.

I used to care, but things have changed

Clearly, one thing that hasn’t changed much is my love of music. It may not have quite as much emotional power over me as it once did but it’s still one of my favorite ways to spend my time. The arts in general still matter to me, but almost nothing else about the human world does.

I used to march, to protest, to write passionately on a variety of social issues which I no longer care about. As society has moved further away from interacting with the natural world, I’ve chosen to remove myself further from society. And it’s a society which has become increasingly fractured, with no shared values or goals. There is no human issue, including matters of life and death, which I consider important compared to what our species is doing to nature and other species because of our overpopulation, greed, selfishness, and shallowness. Earthquakes, explosions, economies, wars, who’s shooting who--I don’t care. The last human disaster that mattered to me was Katrina, and that was only because of location.

For the most part, being among people irritates me. As Anders Osborne sings in one of the songs on his great latest release Flowerbox—I used to be sexy, now everything vexes me. And I’m ten years older than him! Imagine how vexed I am!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Autobobography X—Tangled Up In Blue

Trapped in Reagan’s early 80s, the farmers and I were depressed in a western Illinois university town. I’d walked out of a fast food job rather than tolerate unfairness, leaving behind so many tempting coworkers I’d been unable to choose until one came home with me from a party and didn’t leave. When she finally did, I wound up with her cat. There weren’t any other jobs and it became the first time I lost everything I couldn’t carry. I wound up back in Massachusetts living in a trailer on my father’s land, working in a local factory to pay off debts and save enough to get an apartment.

A woman from another company visited my job regularly and after months of business chats, I finally asked if she’d like to go out and she gave me her number. She drove twenty miles to meet me for dinner during which I stared entranced by the pendant in the teardrop opening at the neck of her white blouse. 

We went back to her place and sat talking and kissing at her kitchen table until she said let’s go to bed and I let her lead the way to candlelight. After the second coming, I said I think we’re getting the hang of this and she said she should get me home because of her kids in the morning. I said I hope this means I’ll be seeing you again; she said you’d better, you asshole.

We spent long Sunday mornings in bed with the newspaper, thick in those days. I loved the curve of her hip as she reached for a cigarette. I couldn’t get enough of her, and told her, and showed her. We commiserated about our parents and childhoods. At a restaurant, a pianist played As Time Goes By and she told her father it was my favorite song. She worried I’d be attracted to her younger sister. 

We spent time by the ocean, at theaters and concerts, and in her home which gradually came to be the first one I’d ever felt, alone and with her kids and dog. Poor and not driving, I was still crazy enough then to ask her to marry me, and she was crazy enough to say yes. Her daughter asked should I call you dad; I instantly got a lump in my throat. The girl now a woman doesn’t remember, but it was my happy moment of fatherhood.

She ended the relationship for no real reason but her fear of commitment when I moved to her town, and I felt I’d lost not just her but a home and a family. But the connection never ended, and we reunited whenever a late night phone call brought us together again after months or years apart. We each knew that both of us were screwed up, incapable of a healthy long term relationship, but no matter how much we might hurt each other, we also knew there was a deep love and bond between us and we always came back for more.

We shared a therapist though not together. I needed one and she recommended hers but we were both uncomfortable with the incestuousness of that threesome. I went looking only for a recommendation of another therapist, but the energy worked and she helped me for years. 

During a visit by my college roommate and his wife, we all went to a club where she got very drunk and asked me to dance with her, I refused and she called me an asshole. Knowing she wasn’t serious but embarrassed anyway, I lashed back and asked why she was with me then and she looked shocked. After we left, I stayed at her house and sent my friends back to my apartment. Later he’d say she treats you like shit, but it was him I visited after his wife left him. Only two people really know what happens between them, and often even they don’t really understand it.

We spent a Valentines weekend in a Boston hotel. At dinner her foot was in my crotch beneath the floor length tablecloth. We made love in the tub, but what I remember best is her saying don’t you know I love you, how could you, I never say it. Even then, she’d later claim it was just the drink and not true, but I always did know, despite her difficulty in admitting it.

One reunion broke up my next relationship with a woman who loved me so much she’d offered me sexual freedom (not what I wanted or needed) unless I was falling for someone else, then I was to break up with her. She believed I was still in love with her predecessor--she was right and I hurt her by following her instructions.

In one late reunion she said she’d heard there was a porn star who looked like her and asked if I knew who it was. I said no, I wasn’t looking at much porn these days; later I found it was Sandra Romain. As always, the resemblance is more obvious in some photos than others -- the similarity in the eyes and hair and skin tone mostly. What did you think it was going to be? 

We had a vicious ending after I took the job in Yellowstone – kicking me while I was down from my grandfather’s death and father’s betrayal, she wondered how she’d gone from loving me so much to hating me? Was it because I was leaving her for good? Was it because I was just a shell of the man I’d been and she knew she was partially responsible? Was it because I’d accepted the fact that I was worn out and defeated?

When I made a quick last return to Massachusetts to ship my things from storage to Duluth storage, I eventually kicked back in one of my vilest moments, sending an email suggesting a hate fuck because I’d never be back.

I had nothing really left to give to another woman, and all my future relationships began through detached means such as newspaper ads or internet communities. All the other attempts at real life interactions failed before they really began and I gave up for years until hooked by a last intriguing possibility in the park which became the biggest and saddest final failure of them all.

While working in Yellowstone, I learned that she’d been attacked in her home, which had been mine for a while, and barely escaped being murdered. I traded final conciliatory emails with her and her daughter.

In a town near Yellowstone in my final year in the area, I met a woman who looked like her and immediately wanted her. Still tangled after all these years. 

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