Saturday, August 31, 2019

Only Eats Bugs


Certain characters exude a particular quality so strongly that it defines their entire persona.

Many of us sport a mask for a few hours at the end of October, but Gene Simmons and RuPaul are living embodiments of their costumes, unrecognizable without them.

Can you imagine Charles Bukowski doing anything other than drinking, fighting, and betting horses?

With that aura of highest spirituality, it’s hard to envision His Holiness the Dalai Lama hunched over the lip of a bathtub cutting his toenails or sitting on the crapper.

Contrastingly, Hitler was evil incarnate no matter what paintings he produced.

Bees, the pollinators that they are, are inextricably linked to humankind’s very survival, yet their stinging reputation lessens our urgency to prevent their extinction.

Thereafter, how might the universe see us in totality? For better and worse, what will have been our greater essence, you and I?

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Omega Summer

Some are born to be hot, lusting after beaches, saunas, hot springs, jacuzzies… carnally drawn to searing engulfment.

I have an extraordinary aversion to high temperature. While everyone else prepares for their Florida retirement, I daydream of pounding slushies in Alaska. I’m so white I’m almost blue, so UV rays scorch me like flame on marshmallow. Walking on an August afternoon, I can actually feel my cells being murdered. If there’s even a leaf’s worth of shade, I’ll park my little toe there, and indoors I require cryogenic levels of air conditioning.

I wish the future were colder, but global warming is as established a fact as the solar system, and it would take a geek with more degrees than the sun to reverse it. I’m grateful I won’t be around for smothering pollen counts, charcoaled California, sunken Venice, total blackouts, and water wars. What can I say? I like my Arctic with a shelf.

Despite our blistering fate, it is worthwhile to slow down the burn. If we at least delay the inevitable through science and sacrifice, we could eke out another generation or two—who would greatly appreciate it—and buy our species a little time to figure a way off the planet. Really, doing nothing is tantamount to blasting a fart in a packed elevator as you’re leaving.

And that’s some karmic heat I don’t want to take.

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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Raised by the Racket




Thanks to my parents, the soundtrack of early childhood resounded with The Beatles, Janice Joplin, Errol Garner, and Bach. After that, I was on my own.

For years I turned the dial, continually underwhelmed by what vibrated through the speakers. Billy Joel was lame, early rap clunky, and new wave had as much soul as the supermarket aisles over which it now plays. 

Then a girl in tenth-grade social studies let me borrow a Memorex mixtape starting with The Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin’ Camaro.” I replayed that snotty, sarcastic lo-fidelity raving until my Sony Walkman chewed it up, and then spent an hour performing surgery on the tangled mess of magnetic ribbon so as to salvage the cassette as well as my chances with this chick.

But the Milkmen are to punk what Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi are to the blues, so it was quickly on to the legitimate intensity of The Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, and early D.R.I. That shit? Made me wanna kick down doors, burst through walls, and whirlwind-destroy every room therein!

In a good way.

Punk was uniquely cathartic and motivated fans to surge toward any goal set to its soundtrack: causes fought for; democracy exercised; broken hearts welded; workouts conquered. Most importantly, the scene connected scatters of colorfully awkward outcasts too creative and brave to surrender, but nonetheless worn down by Top 40 expectations. Minorities in our far-apart high schools, suddenly five-hundred-strong in a charged concert hall.

So, what happened?

Like the hippies it replaced and the hip-hop that’s replaced it, punk’s just another iteration in the grand timeline of counterculture. A stop along the evolution of revolution… eventually a mohawked anachronism. 

In the meantime, for those old enough to remember, the fire that music ignited continues to light the path of our current endeavors, fueling productive rebelliousness and keeping us spiritually honest until we slam dance into the great beyond.

I hope they blast “Rock for Light” at my funeral and catapult my studded coffin into the grave at the center of the ensuing mosh pit. My last stagedive.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tacit Peace


Routines are an inevitable necessity. The cosmos works on interconnected unity and repetition. Had I not finally established an official spot for my car keys after the fifth time leaving them somewhere, I might be writing a "Do Not Tow" sign instead of these words.

Familiar rhythms crescendo to a beating headache when overplayed, however. I drove one route to work for years (on the days I had my keys). Every morning at 6:53 by my dashboard display, I passed the same stoic, mustached, walrus-like construction worker standing at the corner of Motter Ave. and Dill St. waiting for his ride to an overly familiar gig. The pattern was initially comforting, a reassurance that I had company in facing the day. Later on he just bothered me, a tired character in a tired plot. (At one point I stopped seeing him there. I guess it got to him too.)

We eventually cease to appreciate even the most spectacular encounters. Once you've lived in a place at the shore for a while, you no longer look out at the ocean, and that upbeat yellow you painted the living room now drives you up the very same walls. Notice how mellow the crowd remains under a ritual Independence Day sky, as if the fireworks were happening on a distant screen saver. Chronic users get low instead of high, the cannabis cloud thickening into a lead blanket, the harder stuff a deathbed.

There are some cycles that have to be broken altogether, certain landmarks that belong in the rearview mirror. You don't revisit quicksand, perpetual religious conflict only begs the apocalypse, and one colonoscopy is enough, thanks. Otherwise, a well-timed departure begets a positive return. The best chocolate cake comes at the end of a diet. A forgotten view takes your breath again. Love is renewed after time apart.

The more things change, the more they stay the sameness.

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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Unlocked




Keys have always captured my imagination because they open worlds.

A world of wonder, as the lid of a treasure chest releases with a baritone creak.

A secret world, finally accessed by the inheritor of an eccentric relative’s safe deposit box.

A world of memories, when I come across the key to a house (and marriage) long since demolished.

A freer world, the moment iron bars slide sideways to discharge an inmate.

Most of the time, they admit us into routine living: turning deadbolts of front doors, starting cars, and protecting valuables in gym lockers.

People are lockboxes, too, denying or permitting entry depending on the solicitation.

Waiting for that uniquely inspiring teacher to move our potential.

For that singular love to unwind our individual complication.

For that particular chemical to trigger addiction.

For that one insult to unleash our fury, then our fists, then our firearms.

And at long last… for that unifying cause, compelling us to let loose our collective best impulses before Karma changes the locks, and humanity is shut out altogether.

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