Monday, November 19, 2018

Navigating The Holidays

I don’t necessarily expect most of you to understand or relate to this, but for many of us out there, this week begins the toughest period of the year (it extends through the New Year). The “Holidays” mean something entirely different to many of us, meaning that they're not a particularly uplifting time and we do our best to navigate the trenches of childhood trauma and the ghosts of holidays past and get through them. Please remember that some of us willfully choose to isolate during this time of year. Please don’t take it personally if we don’t accept your offer to dine. Please don't think it's okay to push us or guilt us into taking part.

That being said, some people need the exact opposite. There are many who aren’t coping as well and some of those people don’t have homes or families or communities to visit. The silence that can accompany Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.; for those who find themselves alone, can be devastating. This year, as we are amidst in record suicide and addiction rates, perhaps we can make a more concerted effort to step up our game. Maybe we can reach out to those “Holiday Orphans” we all know and check on them. You might even ask them to join you. The caveat being, of course, if they say no, please don't take it personally. The trick, I suppose, is to really take the time to find out what the people you love need. It's not easy, but love is never easy.

To others in my tribe feeling the heaviness of this time of year: Hang in there. It’ll be over soon.

Friday, November 16, 2018

"The Last Time"

In the hills above the murky waters flowing with the blood of ancestors and madmen and jilted lovers, we found a dirt path leading up the side and down into the old, dirty town. We scurried along, kicking bottles and rocks, seeing children playing in dying fields, dogs missing legs, with hunger and desperation in their eyes.

I finally found the guy, sitting in the back of a rusted out Ford Ranchero. His smile was more welcoming than threatening. My middle school Spanish proved useless, but he knew what we wanted.

We waited for a few minutes, watching birds pick at a carcass under a straw umbrella nearby, with the nauseating smell of death hanging in the air.

“This is the last time, baby,” she scolded.

“Of course,” I lied. I studied her eyes, doing my best to ignore the tears welling up.

Pretty soon, I was in the front seat of that rust bucket, elbow in the cup holder, eyes half-mast, waiting for sweet oblivion. Out of the corner, I could see her wearily being led away into a room to pay off my sickness.

Maybe death chases us from the day we’re born. My father always told me that some secrets should stay buried, but I can’t think of that day now without sobbing like a baby. The ghosts are never far away; always ready to feed on whatever is left of your soul.

Sometimes, before nodding off, I call out her name, in a sobbing bestial wail, to an empty sky or a god that knows my sins. In the end, it’s always useless.

But wherever you are tonight, please forgive me. I am sick again, my love. Thirty years of sickness. But I promise, this is the last time..

(note: This is obviously fiction)

Friday, June 22, 2018

On Complicity And Denial

One great shame of American politics is that it forces anyone who dares to undertake an authentic examination of our history, culture and values, to tear apart the carefully orchestrated origin story we've fictionalized for so long to suit our own emotional needs. It requires that we lay bare the kinds of things we were forced to absorb as children; a history that was constructed to make us feel better, as long as we didn't have to look too close at the foundation or the collapsing brickwork of our deluded narrative.

I don't believe much has changed when I see the self-congratulatory claptrap being taught to young people today; and any glance of the evening news will feature a Pathological Narcissist and Presidential Man-Child, wielding his insecurity as a weapon, demanding that everyone play the game he wants to play on the playground while he manipulates the rules to his advantage as he goes along. Sadly, one of the biggest lies we continue to tell empathetic children in 2018 is that they could someday grow up to be President.

Someday, I hope we'll have the courage to be honest with ourselves about who we are and where we're headed. Until then, it will continue to get uglier and more polarized and abrasive; and we'll continue to deny that the house is on fire.. or even worse, those of us so psychologically attached to this narrative will attempt to call on some notion of greatness and insist that it'll be fine (safe to say that they're the most isolated). It can't be - Not until every last one of us is willing to relinquish our childhood attachment to a carefully constructed lie and recreate a world that works for everyone and excludes no one.

I don't have much faith in this possibility. A rigorous moral and cultural self-examination is Painful. Illusion is a warm blanket we've had since childhood. We like our heroes and our story too much to examine, let alone abandon them. Truth is a necessary casualty.

Complicity and Denial. They're both one hell of a drug.

Monday, January 22, 2018

"The Trains At Our Parties Are The Best In Rome. They're The Best Because They Go Nowhere..."

Watching Paolo Sorrentino's masterpiece "The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza)" with my morning coffee. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

It's a film set against the breathtaking backdrop of Rome - with striking, picturesque shots of the Eternal City throughout - but it's focus quickly turns inward; on the inherent loneliness of a writer's human condition, even in the midst of his own narcissism, self-loathing and nocturnal discomfort. The various gatherings and bacchanals of the grotesque, self-absorted Roman upper class (his social circle) prove to be a kind of charade. Even the decadence masks loneliness.

The meaning is found in the passion; in being a connoisseur of Art, in the fleeting nature of love, sex and human connection, and in savoring those rare, simple moments where human beings can overcome their fear and crippling self-doubt just long enough to take off their masks.