Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Can We At Least Pretend To Be Civilized?

Can we at least pretend to be civilized?

Can we at least put in the piss-ant minimal self-involved effort required to fake it the way they used to when it was still legal to beat your wife and hang black men?

Can we make believe for a few moments that such a thing as class, decency, pride, and a mature sense of self-worth isn't just a long ago forgotten anachronism in our loud obnoxious society too crammed and clogged with snap chats, instagrams, iphones, and fleeting spectacle?

See, when you made that tasteless joke objectifying a fellow human being you brought shame to yourself and our entire gender. It was my own personal failure that I didn't tell you this. It was easier to up the ante and make an even less tasteful jab of my own degrading both myself and another innocent not present to slap my guilty mouth for allowing such ignorant filth to spill from it in the first place. I tried to tell myself that you're from a different generation. That you meant well. You're just socially stilted and terribly lonely and so desperate for control and comradery that you're perfectly willing (it would seem) to make an unabashed misogynistic ass of yourself.

When you asked to see nude photos of my girlfriend whom I dearly love body and soul, I suddenly found I could no longer stomach your insipid presence and that vacating my home for the night was the only option outside of stabbing you to death with your son's largest Ginsu kitchen knife. The mess would have been unspeakable. Not to mention the smell.

I didn't commit this murder. Because I can pretend. I can feign civility because I was raised to do so by people who were interested enough to put some effort into the job. Because the ever-loving definition of the word, formal politeness and courtesy in behavior and speech used to be an essential part of the upbringing for every little boy and girl. Before the days of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter- the three headed hound guarding the gates to Planet Fuck-Me. A monster has been unleashed growing larger by the day. Be on the look out for those with regular broadband connection creating their own personal alter, a kind of shrine to themselves. They won't beg for your blood or devotion, they won't even demand it, they'll simply sit back and expect it. And when your tribute isn't received, be prepared for their wrath.

This publicly sanctioned narcissism, this socially supported wave. A kind of shitnami comprised of equal parts ignorance, passion, and entitlement that has engulfed each subsequent generation more deeply and fully than the one that came before soaking their feeds with loud, shameless, asinine garbage about religion, politics, sports, real TV, reality TV, TV news, the environment, human rights, and other meaningless drivel.

These neophytes masquerading as Gods to be worshiped have found a consequence free playground in the internet spreading gossip, filth, and self-serving bullshit twenty-four/seven until the invisible intangible bombast is jammed twenty feet thick separating, insulating us all with so much marshmallow-like foam rubber forbidding us from seeing the person inside the shrine. This lack of connection and sense of self-importance leads them to more easily label, more efficiently objectify. Consumerism and decadence do a devilish cha-cha as they point and click their way to some kind of deluded sense of fulfillment. Misogyny joins in with a caustic lack of concern for consequences and the dance continues spilling into our discourse and our lives infecting people everywhere with the notion that the mainline unfiltered them is the best version to present to the world.

It's a helluva lot easier than considering the feelings of others or the repercussions of my actions. And I must be great- I've got nearly fourteen hundred friends and over three thousand followers...

And buy and large this is normal. That's why I'm asking, can we at least pretend to be civilized? We don't have to be civilized. Humanity has never been civilized. Not when they were hurling their own shit at each other and painting on walls, not when they waged war with sticks and clubs over much-desired piles of dirt, not when they systematically enslaved fill in the blank race of people, not when they systematically exterminated another, not when they split the atom, or journeyed into space, or wrote Hamlet or even the Constitution. Humanity has never been civilized. But we used to at least pretend. -JN

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mad Scribbling on a Mad Tuesday

is not about the pulse and fingertips and ooo-yes-my-God that's so nice and everything flowing, connecting, melting together and all over each other.
is not to jolt as one touch excites the nerve endings somehow miraculously connected on the other side of the body and neglected for far too long and oh-so-thirsty for more.
is not to feel that hair as it winds once, twice, oh-so-nice and pull!
is not to see that spark in her eye as she hungers and grins and pushes and pulls and lunges and fights and gives and yes, yes, yes!
is waves and hums and rushes all over and through.
is a slight chill and the tingles all over like something fell asleep and infected everything else with a heavy heavy weight.
is for calm.
is for relaxation.
And introspection.
And planning.
And people watching.
It's all so trite and derivative
so trite and derivative
so trite and derivative
and I'm such a bad speller and
so trite and derivative
because we couldn't stand it if every day was like this. 
To be on this raw nerve, to live and exist in this place and time. 
Because it holds you full and intense as all fuck and BAM!
Such courage and chaos igniting everywhere you look and life always continuous. 
Transcending shape and form and pattern and purpose. 
Rendering definition pointless because it's not about words.
It never was.

In my first self-defense class, I was taught by The Colonel that grabbing the body part of another is a commitment. It means taking responsibility for whatever that body part does while you're holding it. Like mounting a mad bull or bucking bronco. Sometimes holding on for dear life becomes to only option left as well as the worst choice you ever made. Thoughts and words can be like that. Follow an idea too closely, grip it too tightly and you'll find yourself tumbling down, down, down a deep well leading to some very scary places leaving spilled ink and soiled notebook pages in your wake. The trip wasn't something that took much planning. Just time. The bright sunny breezy day was an added bonus. Stevie Ray Schwinn provided as good
a product as I could have hoped for which sat in a bag on my desk for the better part of a fortnight before I did anything with it. In the past, I've mixed mushrooms with noodles, pizza, or even something as unadorned as a slice of bread with peanut butter slapped on it and folded in half. On this particular Tuesday afternoon I simply ate them. Chewing them roughly and awkwardly as if just pulled from the ground in a forest somewhere. Treating them like the rotten fungus they were, keeping them off my tongue as much as possible and chasing with plenty of water and a chocolate chip cookie. This helped me get them down much easier. I only gagged once. I hadn't really eaten much that day so they kicked in much faster and stronger than expected. Much faster. I thought I'd have time to drop by the comic shop for a new book and the ice cream shop next door for a small cone before the world turned upside down. The tremors had already begun as I left the comic shop taking one smooth step after another, but ice cream became an impossible endeavor very quickly. The place was packed wall to wall with screaming children. I was most certainly not prepared to handle so many of them and so much of their noise with a belly full of psilocybin. I'm not sure how to describe the terror that comes at the realization of being so drastically outnumbered by these creepy crawly
fragile creatures known as kids. And they know. Believe me, they know. Get that many of them together in one large room and all bets are off. Your age and experience become kryptonite. Arsenic. You can't hear yourself think, let alone speak. As I frantically attempted to formulate a game plan I witnessed perfectly sober adults dotted throughout the store on the verge of collapse. One gentleman was simply banging his head repeatedly into a table. No one noticed the small pool of blood as it was building right next to his daughter's melted container of Rockin Raspberry. Another couple near the back were shoving a loaded pistol in and out of each other's hands arguing over who got to die first. I decided I didn't need an ice cream cone after all and told the charming young lady behind the counter I just wanted a bottle of water. She was kind enough to let me pay with my card and I vacated the premises as quickly and calmly as humanly possible.

I decided to take myself to the beach to sit and watch whatever there was to see. The walk to the lake held with it a strange tingle and chill throughout my body and a stiff fractured relationship with my jaw. As if I had fastened someone else's throat and mouth onto my skull and was trying to wear them in like a new pair of jeans. It was important to keep moving. Spitting through a crooked grin every few steps and stopping occasionally to marvel at the clouds and trees and sky and their strange new kaleidoscopic quality. The sand and water held similar new abilities. Swirling and sliding in a kind of ebb and flow which I quickly deduced were the unmistakable inhales and exhales of the planet. I can't remember a time in my life when I've been so content to simply sit and feel myself awash in a sea of life. It was in the air, on the tip of each blade of grass, in the concrete benches. Beautifully simple. Simply beautiful.

And you brought an apple thinking you might be hungry.
And you brought some books thinking you might be bored.
Forgetting you strapped in for a ride.
Forgetting, thinking with your sober foolish planning ahead mind
That you might actually have attention for anything beyond the
Vibrancy and
People and
Life all around you.
The distractions are oh-so-needed for
Most of us
Most all of the time.
Most of us
Who are never really looking.
And it's all so
And all so
And all so
And all swimming together in a big big stew. All the
Money Grubbing
Hate and
Politics and
Power Plays and
Corporate Sponsorship and
Shit-Shit-Shit and
Fuck-Fuck-Fuck and
All of it all together around and around again and again in the same vat with all the
Love and
Simplicity and
Appreciation and
Music and
Poetry and
Time and
Around and around
Again and again.
It will always continue.
That's all you can really count on.
That's all it does.

After a couple hours of intense unfocused high speed rapid fire thought coupled with a massive vibrating body high and the most gentle swimmy melty visuals I've enjoyed in a good long while, I felt it was time to be moving along. This beach was played out. I had also somehow managed to acquire a new sunburn on my calves. Which made no sense considering I'd been sitting the whole time. At any rate, the next step for the day (whatever that was) awaited and it was time to get a move on. The peak had come and gone and couldn't have happened in a more scenic or pleasing setting. Upon arriving home, it became very important to empty the trash. Not sure why, but it seemed the thing to do. I lined each empty can up in the main room after hauling all the garbage out to the dumpsters in our alley. There were five of them. Five empty trash bins lined up perfectly for two men in a two bedroom apartment. Hell, it's really six if you count the waste basket over by the computer desk. Was this excessive? Were we part of the problem? Doing a disservice to future generations ever hastening the demise of our Earth Mother? As I wrestled with this new frightening thought I noticed the posters on the walls to be swelling and pulsating as much as ever and my new-found guilt over these trashcans to be god-damn fascinating. So, maybe the trip wasn't quite over. But we'd most definitely descended and plateaued. Nothing scary or unexpected around the corner. From here on out things would calmly settle into a nice cozy Tuesday evening.

Relishing in a sensation becomes as easy as focusing one's attention.

But I wasn't ready for calm. I found myself staring intently at the posters and murals melting into themselves only moments ago trying so hard to see it again. To bring back the kaleido-vision with the sheer force of my will. I began watching the most vial porn in my spank bank with double shots of Makers from the bottle and deep dragon bowl hits for chasers. Fighting to get myself as amped, primed, and gassed as I was only two hours ago. Reveling in meaningless selfish decadence as the transcended euphoric raw nerve hyper reality waved mockingly in my general direction. It had become a fading memory. A distant mountain top. Once peaked, though never processed. This happens to me every time. Never with acid, but always with shrooms. It isn't pleasant having to accept that you were simply a visitor to the summit. As an imperfect creature, you can't live there. As an imperfect creature, you won't be returning for some time. And as the journey back down is a psychological crusher, you will grab for any imperfect support available. Junk food is medicine. Booze is medicine. Reading, writing, weed- all medicine. Comic books are fucking medicine. Porn is medicine.

The worst porn.
The most unforgiving
cock slapping
double penetration
lousy boob job
bad dye job
anal intruding
flicks and pics you can handle.
But it's no use.
Band-aid for a bullet wound.

You don't get to the summit twice in one day. But boy, do you try. You jerk and you lube and you pump and you spit and you stroke with all your might. And right when you finally come into your workout T-shirt from that morning, you feel your eyes rolling back and catch yourself thinking how that was maybe one tenth of what it felt like to stand on that mountain. Where everything was racing with life and color and possibilities and pleasantness and the overwhelming presence of greater forces working all around you all the time. Forces that didn't wait for your permission. Forces you'd do well to surrender to. Feeling in your blood and bones that need for release. Realizing that fighting the rhythm of the world is indeed a foolish fleeting struggle. Knowing deep down where words had no value that releasing control was a perfectly natural thing to do. And it would never stop you from being alive. This kind of trust only comes to the enlightened. Never to the sober.

The evening took a left turn at that point when Alberto, a friend and neighbor started screaming from the street below. Apparently his old lady had kicked him out again. Something about holding a backyard wrestling tournament in the living room. He seemed quite troubled and I didn't want to press him for details. We spent the remainder of the evening swapping war stories from the good old days over brandy, cigars, and pizza delivery. -JN 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Twenty-Seven Months...A New Fiddle-Playing Friend

It was three years ago. I'd had enough and the fates had conspired and so I loaded my life (or what would fit) into a van and hauled ass out of town for good. I'd split the cost of the van with my parents about seven years before and had never once regretted the purchase. This van had seen a lot. Every major move, my first deliberate hot-box, and the most visceral and violent verbal exchange I've ever had with my step-father. If we had lost control and actually killed each other that night- the van would have been the only witness. TONS-OF-FUN, as Addy called it was taking me across the country one more time. To a new home just across the border from Red-State-Hell. The misery that is Missouri.

In my short time back home after college I came and saw very much and conquered very nothing. Even so, I had fought and won, loved and lost enough for ten lifetimes in this bland and dying landscape. I still have, or keep plenty of affection for my former stomping grounds. The land of my younger and more formidable years. But it is a distant affection. More for something dead and removed and remembered. Not something you can visit or see or touch. My future was never clear in The Show-Me State, but it would have been miserable. I was always certain of this much- I was always meant to come here. The city of Mamet and Letts. Steppenwolf and Second City. Real pizza. Art- with balls. The worst winters, highest murder rate, and a history of political corruption to rival Tammany Hall! It was in the stars. (if you believe that sort of thing) God's plan. (if that's more your brand) I've always called it the next chapter. The next step on what I hope to be a very long and eventful journey.

Three years is time enough to have learned that this is where I belong. A land without financial security. Where the almighty dollar will never be the motivator. Where everyone has some song and dance to share which comes from the heart and soul and fire and has nothing to do with turning a buck. A community so determined to support and risk and play and continue on and on until their bodies break down and crap out for good. This is my beloved prison. My chosen asylum. This is fucking Chicago.

My anniversary fell on a Tuesday this year so I took myself out. I passed Taco Tuesday specials, two for one deals, and three-dollar well drinks and drafts back to where I've vomited up more screeds than my more avid readers would care to remember. Lick it up, lovelies. We're goin back to the Red Line Tap.
I am fiercely loyal when it comes to the various haunts and establishments I choose to frequent. Like your favorite item on a menu or your usual last ditch drunk dial booty call. Red Line has become one of many nerve centers for me in this city. A place I can work and drink and rant and glare and just fucking be. There are diners and sandwich shops, pizza parlors and watering holes. Places to write and rage. Where you're on a first name basis with half the staff for the most obvious of reasons. And on a Tuesday night- you just can't beat The Red Line Tap. Mickey was pouring my neat Fighting Cock and cracking my Old Style tallboy before I even said a word. All I did was smile and wave.

She approached me directly at the bar in between sets.
What are you writing?
not an easy question.
Sorry. Maybe I should let you finish.
No, it's okay.

I was stuck. There were so many thoughts all trying to get out at once. Her eyes were green. Or maybe brown. Definitely not hazel. She had recently started playing fiddle with the band. I had seen her a couple weeks before but we hadn't met. Her slim frame and passionate hustle and flow told the tale of a woman who'd amassed about a ton and a half of life experience in a precious short amount of years living it. She'd never rehearsed with the group, she told me. Just gigs. Standing, bouncing, jamming along. Plucking and listening for key changes. Shredding a hot lick when she was in the pocket. The momentary sloppiness of sound was completely worth the bright shining madness that sang from her instrument. Added a hell of a nice flavor to the mix. I told her as much as we talked about sexism, the gay rights movement, capitalism, cultural impasses, and comfortable American complacency. A fellow revolutionary ready for a fight worthy of her efforts and energy. A hippie-dippie badass my mother would be proud of. Not bad for a chance meeting at the bar. Her eyes found mine about twenty minutes before during the first set. She was scanning the tiny crowd assembled- some sitting and bobbing their heads to the beat, others in the back playing pool, still others locked into the third game of the San Jose series they clinched in OT (one more win and they knock LA out of the playoffs- it would serve them right, fucking LA) -and she landed on me. Smiling at her from my perch just above a half-wall as she stumbled, bumbled, and bowed sweet glory. She held my gaze much longer than your typical mid-song glance. After a moment of scrutiny, her smile would finally release. This happened a few times during the set. I found myself wondering if it was just the confidence booster she needed to jam out with ease on her next solo. Or maybe this was all in my head. Maybe she was just drunk.

Where was she heading tonight? Did she have a car? A home? I figured, yes. Her clothes and belongings suggested as much. Even so, something in her direct yet fragile manner made me wonder if she hadn't long ago given up on secure consistent living situations. She said she wrote as well. That she was a refugee from the music department at some university in Denver she said just wasn't for her. An artist. Not a student.
Everybody isn't both. I don't think everybody should be. I wish more artists were told this when they are young. She told me about her bicycle tour through Europe. Camping and cycling and blogging from one region to another and noting more than a couple hundred thousand cultural differences which bordered on bedrock principles making one reexamine their own worldview and life choices.

A young jackass in a Cubs hat interrupted our conversation to interject a useless ignorant collection of bile
and bullshit. She was much more polite than I wanted to be. I was enjoying our talk a great deal. Five minutes discourse with this sensitive perceptive soul was more than enough to learn she was sharper than most of the liquored up booze-hounds in the hospitable not-too-noisy haze. Nobody invited this fuck-stick to throw in any amount of his cents- two or otherwise. He had nothing relevent to contribute to the greater conversation. He had no interest in our dissection of the complacent huddled masses drowning in the sea of capitalism force fed to them since birth. He had no real insight into the ever-growing wealth gap brewing and breeding this nation's next violent revolution. He wanted the attention of the attractive fiddle player with the great rack and definitely not hazel eyes. He was doing what every young drunk male fool does when sitting next to a strong beautiful woman who's out of his league. He talked and talked and talked some more all the while saying absolutely fucking nothing. I sat quietly as long as I could hoping he'd run out of steam and shut the hell up. I lose my tolerance very quickly with people like our new persistent young friend. Lucetta really listened. She said her name was Lucetta. This compassionate patience is not a quality I share. She really humored him, allowing him to finish his fractured thoughts and slink away into the night keeping even pace with his friend who'd had sense enough to keep himself to himself. They've always got to have some cronie with them. Too insecure to go out alone without an umbilicus to turn to for reassurance. A cheerleader to help them feel safe. It wasn't long after this Lucetta had to get back onstage for the second set. The drinking set. And so she did. It wasn't long after this I needed to
get home to snag terrible sleep and batten down the hatches for my impending hangover. And so I did. I wonder if I'll make it back to Red Line next Tuesday. I wonder if Lucetta will be playing with the boys again. I wonder if she'll remember me or my smile or our talk. I wonder, wonder, wonder... -JN