My mom teaching me something important, 1975.
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A lot of adages are bullshit, but “misery loves company” proves itself true time and time again.
After my Grams died, I decided to become a different person. I was a grumpy obese guy who played computer games and blamed the world for my problems. There are a lot of losers like that out there, who buy the media bullshit and assume as middle-class white guys, they are due riches and success from the world without much effort. When they turn out to be mediocre, and realize that success is hard work, they blame it on affirmative action, reverse racism, feminists and anyone else who after years of struggle is making some of the progress that the Loser has been denied.
Because we mostly speak in pop culture reference these days, let me reference a favorite film, UNFORGIVEN:
‘Deserve’ has got nothin’ to do with it.
If everyone got what they deserve, we wouldn’t need fiction. What most people forget is that what they think they deserve and what they actually deserve are usually two very different things. I don’t believe there’s a Cosmic Santa with a naughty/nice list tallying what we deserve. I don’t believe in karma as a force. But I do believe your negativity wears you down, and may as well follow you like a vengeful spirit. It informs your actions in secret. If you’re angry, envious or resentful enough you will sabotage everything you do, because deep down you know you don’t deserve to succeed. And you project this self-loathing on the world, as paranoia.
You did this to me. Why did you let this happen. Why didn’t anyone tell me.
One of the best lines in fiction is from Cormac McCarthy’s No Country from Old Men:
I ain’t got all that many regrets. I could imagine lots of things that you might think would make a man happier. I think by the time you’re grown you’re as happy as you’re goin to be. You’ll have good times and bad times, but in the end you’ll be about as happy as you was before. Or as unhappy. I’ve knowed people that just never did get the hang of it.
Some people never get the hang of it. Misery becomes a comfortable safe haven that shields them from trying, because trying means failure. But you don’t succeed without building up a callus fro failure. It’s easier to blame the world, to quit at the first sign of adversity, to find similarly bitter men who will share your opinions and never make anything of themselves, because we were supposed to wake up kings of the world. It wasn’t supposed to be work.
Success is what you define it as. I don’t think I will ever consider myself a success, because that way lies complacency. But I have got the hang of being happy, and I don’t allow the miserable to pull me down anymore. I help people when I can. I learned from reading the Bhagavad-Gita in Mr. O’Dell’s class that there are no selfless acts, so I don’t get hung up on why I help others. I do it because I can and because it feels good to see someone else succeed, even if they surpass me.
And I will confess, when I first started writing, boosting others made me worry. What if I don’t succeed? I wasted energy helping someone else that could have gone to me! Now, frankly I just don’t give a shit. I feel blessed that people like reading what I write. That is success, to me. If I compared myself to Stephen King, or Harlan Ellison, or Glen Cook, writers I admire who are at differing levels of success, I’d be miserable. But here’s the thing, I haven’t put in the work that those writers have yet. And I know when I do, I will achieve some level of success- I have already, because you read what I write.
And that’s all I ever wanted, was to put the wild stories in my head to paper and have a stranger enjoy it. And that’s already happened. Thank you, readers. After that, what else is there? Money? I have everything I want. (Except a ’71 Plum Crazy Challenger R/T, but you need to stay hungry).
There will always be miserable people whining about what they deserve and who has what they don’t deserve, and who’s gonna get what they deserve. They lack perspective. They don’t realize that we don’t get to decide what we deserve. If there is a form of karma at work in the world, it’s that minding your business and not concerning yourself with what others’ “deserve” frees you to fight for what you think you deserve.
But that takes way too long to say. Let’s just say “Misery loves company.”
I first heard Iz in Hawai’i at a music shop where I bought a gourd. I can’t play music for shit, sadly. I was born with a heart murmur, and I blame it for my musical arrhythmia. That and my chronic honkitude… I grew up in the town where Martha Stewart is from. Did you hear she’s dating on match.com? Thanks to CNN for broadcasting that ‘news.’
Iz died in 1997, only a few years after achieving fame with his amazing covers of “Over the Rainbow” and “Country Roads.” His album FACING FUTURE has all the songs I mentioned and for me, is as soulful and talented an album you are likely to find.
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Branch Brook Park in Newark (and Belleville) New Jersey has the largest collection of Japanese cherry blossom trees in America, over 4300. They are in bloom now, blush clouds of pink and puffs of white mist. In a few days the blossoms will blanket the ground and the trees will be bare for another season.
I wrote about them in “The Forest for the Trees.” In Japan, they are called sakura, and it has been a tradition to picnic beneath the blossoms for well over a thousand years. During the second World War, they became a nationalist symbol, a “blossom of death,” and pilots painted the blossoms on their planes, the final naval battle at Leyte Gulf was a suicide mission to protect the mainland as the ships “exploded like blossoms,” and poets said the thousands of dead young soldiers were “reincarnated” as sakura blossoms.
The bombs in Boston had no such beauty. Those clouds of smoke were the voice of cowardice, from whoever detonated them. It is in our nature to pin the blame on those we hate. Terrorist jihadists or terrorist militias, the government, lone psychos, whatever. We will know the perpetrators soon enough. It took months to locate the Olympics bomber from 1996, and a hero’s life was nearly ruined when he was falsely accused. We do not need anger or hatred now, we need calm. And donations of blood. And vigilance without panic.
My thoughts go to the victims of this cowardly, hateful attack.
kokoro no oni mo
tsuno wo oru
cherry blossoms scatter–
even the devil in me
has lost his horns
“Papa was a rolling stone… wherever he laid his hat was his home, and when he died, all he left us was alone.”
The Temptations sang that first. Real poetry there. I first heard it from Was (Not Was) on their excellent Are You Okay? album.
The first song I’d heard by them was the hilarious “Hello Dad! I’m in Jail!” on MTV Liquid Television, back when they played music. They got big for “Walk the Dinosaur” in that Flintstones movie, which I am glad to say I have never seen.
They were an eclectic group and always rather interesting, but still could rock things out. Detroit soul in their blood.
I love their cover of “I Can’t Turn You Loose” as well:
And now… Dad! I’m in JAIL:
I hate April Fool’s Day.
Why’s that, Tommy? Can’t we lie and laugh about it for one day?
No. You want to know why?
Because we lie every day and laugh about it. We tell ourselves that we can’t change the world. It is what it is. That’s just the way it is. What ya gonna do?
And that my friend, is a steaming spoonful of grass-fed organic bullshit.
The truth is we don’t want to change things. We’re lazy and comfortable and if some poor people over there have to live in indentured servitude so I can buy cheap, pretty, disgustingly mealy tomatoes, well, I’m okay with that. If some Russian girl gets tricked into thinking she’s gonna wait tables in New York City and instead she’s choking on dirty drunk men’s cocks in the back of a strip club paying off a debt to mobsters she can never clear, because they’ll press a hot iron to her mother’s face back home if she tries to run, well that’s okay. I like seeing girls swing on poles and pretend they like me. Here, have a dollar. Ha ha, you should have gone to college. It’s great to be male!
We don’t even believe what we believe because we know it is true, because we researched it, read it, saw it, experienced it. We believe it because it’s what we are told to believe if we want to be who we are, the guy who drives a sweet car that doesn’t destroy the planet too badly, who drinks brand X because some dead celebrity did once, who believes in FREEDOM because he’s gullible enough to think if our freedom meant two squirts of donkey piss the powers would actually let us have it, that the government is scared of an armed citizenry when they have nukes, chemical weapons and will rain white phosphorus on your city and call you terrorists if your piddly-ass militia was frightening in any way shape or form. That you wouldn’t shit or go blind after they cut the power, the water, blockaded the roads and defoliated the forest, and let their drone pilots play Galaga with your children as targets. Really. Grow up.
But you need the lie, that illusion of freedom, the delusion of control, if you’re going to be productive. You need just enough fear to obey and just enough slack on the leash to think you’re free. You need to think you came up with your ideas and they aren’t based on twenty years of marketing and television and headlines that shape the images you come up with when they say “combatant” or “thug” or “beautiful” or “innocent” or “taxpayer” or “happiness.”
So yeah, your joke about who died, who’s pregnant, your photoshopped picture of North Korean tanks breaking down before they could reach the DMZ, your Rick Astley video (which I’m kinda nostalgic for already) or whatever hoax you’re gonna think is so clever today is just there to make you feel smarter than the people who have owned you since birth and are waiting to squeeze every dollar out of you before they allow the feeding tube to be removed.
Have a nice day.
Happy birthday to Angus Young of AC/DC.
This is one of my favorite tunes of theirs, a pure rock ‘n roll sex anthem that will shake the house down, just like Rosie dancing in a condemned structure.
Whole Lotta Rosie Live in Colchester 1978.