Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Letter to My Home Concerning My Home

Dear Little Forgotten Anna,

I was conceived on a hot, star filled night in the grass and the dirt on the edge of some backwoods bayou in the steam cooker of a state I would later learn to call my home. I was born out of the murky sludge that rages beneath our bridges and bends around our toe. I learned to crawl in the sand that wandered up my way every here and there. I was raised on a diet that was stalked, caught, fried, and fried. And, even though at times I want no part of the part of me that would never depart, I always come back, with my jeans tucked in my boots and my sleeves rolled down against the hawk’s prey.

Although I never pray. Even though most do down here, or up here for them that are down further than what would appear, to you, to be the bottom.

I always come back, where the rain back slides and slides down, and causes slides. Where the cups runneth over, over and over again. Where there is plenty for plenty and plenty come for it. Where there are rich and there are poor, but everybody sweats on a hot day. Because there is heat, my friends and travelers. Oh, how there is heat. Heat that boils the air you breath and smears the skin on your face when you fight the trees. Or fight the vines. Or fight the grass. Or fight all between, above, and below.

And you will fight, brothers and sisters. When you decide that you’re here, and that you will be here, you will fight. Because everybody fights from calf to heel. You don’t clear, you fight. You don’t plant, you fight. You don’t dig, you fight. Our home defends itself well. And when the red clay runs in your sweat down the splintered handle of your shovel, you’ll know what it is to bleed from battle.

But, I always come back, even though I never leave. My mind leaves. Not that the leaves mind, on the days when the wind coaxes the trees out to sing. My mind leaves to where I’ve been before and after this. Going where the water sparkles in sterile virginity. Where the fields don’t devour you as you break their stalks. Where mother nature accepts us for who we are. Where we aren't driven from the place we love by the place we love.

But that’s not here is it? I don’t know where that is. Maybe I don’t want to know. This womb is hot, and wet, and when the levee breaks, I cry, just to breath. Knee deep in a constant, pointless baptism that washes away my sin with mud and filth. Surrounded by wood sprouted up from the knee deep, grown into a confessional, forgotten when time for forgiveness. Cold from a lack of compassion, and judgment.

Oh, and it does also get cold. Cold in the morning, cold in the night. Cold that freezes that life giving vapor right in our breath, only to have it carried back through our shirts, and into our bones. 'Cause the time don't pass here as it should, and when it's not froze, it's just frozen. Frozen solid over everything that wasn't here before, and then everything that was. Frozen into a wall so bitter and rigid as if to keep him by name The Devil at bay, while we try to keep the children warm under Her cotton.

But, the Devil eventually gives up, or maybe just hides, and the bitter clear wall around us subsides. And, we all venture out into the sun, or the moon. Poke out through our tiny holes by the river and start to croak at the still air. Croak for croak, to see who survived the hibernum. To see who gets to go fishing again, and who gets to go drinking instead.

Oh and there is drinking. Drinking 'till the faces match the mudbugs in the pot on a day when the wind visits from up north or down south, and brings us the gift of fulfilled dreams. The dreams aren't big down here much, 'cause the dreamers know better, and no better. They just want the breeze to blow the grill smoke their way to taste, and then blow it away again, so they can remember it.

She's in my blood. I've been with others, but nothing compared to the amount I've stepped on her feet. Kissed her neck. Or, left her crying on the steps, but always shuffled back the next morning. I can't ever leave, you see. She's got a piece of my soul. Up canned in a mason jar, lost in her attic, cause she can't lose it in her cellar. And, she doesn't look for it, 'cause she don't want it found. She just wants me turned, and homeward bound.

She doesn't talk much. Sleeps during the day, and at night, when there's a wake, she's just rowdy. But I can't blame her. Nowadays she's too lonely to hate. Abused and forgotten not just yesterday, and now the man comes crawling back. Brings her flowers, tells her how pretty she is. Ain't no ring but she guess's it will do. I see her for what she is. The sad eyed lady of the lowlife. And, the lowlands too, if you prefer. She can be both. At times she is.

And, frankly, some of us aren't impressed by his flowers. We don't want him in our kitchen. We'd rather see the house an inferno before he decides to leave his boots outside the door. This is my home. It's old, and it's bad, and it's rotten with crawling and gnawing. But, that never made no matter did it?

Come on, Mama. Forget this man. Let's go steal some gasoline.

Chiggie Von Richthofen
we'll build a fire an' light a match and watch the whole thing burn

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Letter to Achievers Concerning Carrots and Brass Rings

Dear Type A hardons,

I have something in me that my dad never could find in himself: compassion. HA! No, I'm just fucking around, that’s a whole other thing I’ll get into at another time. No, what I think I have that my dad always wished he had more of is ambition. That drive to achieve something greater than a nine to five and a 401K. I want fame and notoriety and respect, where he just does what’s available and wishes he knew how to wish for more. But, the older I get, the more I realize that the joke is kind of on me on this one, because I’m lacking something important that my dad has in abundance: the ability to work on something for more than 15 minutes without getting bored and spending the rest of my free time doing jack shit. The man is an achiever, and I am really not.

When life was just about school and grades and first jobs and making rent, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t an achiever. I could revel in my slacker lifestyle and…

(hang on, the Demetri Martin special is back on)

(ok, I’m going to mute it or I’m not going to finish this)

…So, anyway, I could revel in my slacker lifestyle without any care or worry that I wasn’t making any kind of forward progress with my goals. It also helped that I didn't have goals. I could do fun things like declare that next weekend we’re going to watch the entire first season of 24, only breaking to eat and play Splinter Cell. I could lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling, completely for the hell of it, for an hour straight, if I felt so inclined. After I dropped out of college I lived a life of lazy gratification, having decided that I should turn my life into a vacation for a few years, even though I hadn’t really been working all that hard up to that point anyway.

Now, later, even though there’s nothing physically keeping me from doing that, it's a little tougher. I can still lay on the couch or watch four episodes of House back to back while I eat cookies from the Dollar General (in the back left they have this row of boxes that are generic brands of ALL the different kinds of Girl Scout Cookies. Can I get a hell yeah?). All of my old activities are still available to me in theory, but, where I used to be able to spend an evening celebrating the 10th time I’ve watched Pirates of the Caribbean by drinking wine right from the bottle, now when I engage in a similar act there’s this nagging guilt latched onto it the entire time.

And, when I say nagging guilt I don’t mean a funny little feeling in my subconscious or a little reflective pause as I notice an unfinished manuscript. No, it’s more like I sit down to start goofing off and in my head it’s like AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! And, then as I keep going through with the goofing off it’s more of a AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! It’s fucking annoying and…

(hold up, Demetri Martin is back on)

(no, I didn’t mute it, shut up)

(Jesus the wind just opened my back door. This happened last night too, and I briefly had the thought that a ghost had wandered into my house. Let me explain. I’ve had mice in my house for a little while now, and I had been drinking, and I was playing a driving game, so a lot of my concentration was going into thinking about what a great drunk driver I would be. So, in the middle of this, the wind opens the door, which startles me, and then I think I hear footsteps in the kitchen, which was actually a mouse trying to get into the dog food. But, I didn’t know that, so I kind of pulled myself off the couch and shakily walked over to the door that connects my kitchen and living room, a little terrified because all the times I’ve run through how to handle a ghost in my head, I had never assumed I’d be pretty buzzed at the time, which was really just an unforgivable oversight on my part when I think about it. Anyway, what?)

…Oh, so the guilt is fucking annoying, and the worst part is that it doesn’t even help me. It’s not like I have this constant compass in my head that always gets me back on track. It’s just that I have this screaming guilt that doesn’t want me to goof around, but I goof around anyway, because that’s kind of my thing. I spend a lot of time just fucking around the house. I always have. At first I think it was out of necessity, to keep sane with no parents and an alien visitor as a sister, and then the habits were already formed so I just kept being a slacker. A term that I never understood the negative connotations of until later in life.

When I was young I associated the word slacker with Marty McFly from Back to the Future. That bald guy from Top Gun was in his face all the time about being a slacker, but Marty got to ride in a time machine and played the guitar. So, fuck yeah, I’m a slacker. Let me do some of that shit.

Later on I realized that slacker really meant that I cut class whenever I could, and liked to run half way down the track in high school until I was out of site and then cut hard right to go behind the supply building and smoke. I learned that being a slacker meant that when the teacher said that we had to write our names on the tops of our research projects, because that was five points right there, I would write my name on a blank sheet of paper and demand my five points, to see if she thought that was as funny as I did. I actually got a laugh once, which surprised me.

So, no time machines, and no guitar playing. Although, I did actually try to teach myself the guitar for a couple weeks. I even started to make progress, but, then I quit. I keep telling myself that I’ll pick it up again, but I won’t. No, the only thing I can guarantee WILL happen, is that I will find new and interesting ways to NOT do what I think I should be doing.

(I’m going to work on this later. I think Danny’s online and I want to play Test Drive.)

(Never mind he’s not.)

(God it's been hours. I've even been working on another letter. I have to admit I'm a bit drunk at the moment. Let's just keep it going.)

So as I sit here, convinced that I can both watch House AND write a letter at the same time, while pretty buzzed on Bacardi Gold, I am still thinking about how the only good thing I could manage to do with myself this week is clean our kitchen and bathroom top to bottom. What a spectacular achievement! Next stop, White House! No, that's just a joke, I don't want to be the president. I just want to do what I want to do and make a substantial living at it. But that's what we all want isn't it?

(Writing this drunk and distracted probably isn't the best, but, that's kind of the point of the whole letter so I'm going to just run with it.)

I'm starting to wonder just how useful ambition really is. I have plenty, I think. I know pretty much exactly what I want. I know it so well that when and if I ever reach that point, I'll be able to look around and say, yep, this is it. But, where has that got me? I basically just work long night shifts to keep my house and my life intact. I work, and my wife works her ass off, and that's just to keep our heads above water.

My dad, on the other hand, with his admitted lack of ambition has done some pretty amazing things. Being part of a yacht racing team around Africa, working on a drilling platform in the rough arctic sea, getting promoted to the point where he is building drilling platforms in Singapore, India, now Australia, abandoning his family, starting a new one half way across the world that we never get told about. The man has had a busy life.

But, me, nah, none of that. Most of my adventures exist in my own head. All part of this amazing imagination engine that I use about once a month to inch towards some kind of career that hasn't even happened. Go me. Yeah, this is MUCH better. I'm so glad I was born with creativity instead of all that other shit my dad got to do.

(Ha! House put a possum in Wilson's tub! What an asshole!)

(I think in the spirit of this letter, I'm going to stick with just drinking and watching House, and work on this later...again.)

(Ok, it's been like a fucking week and I haven't touched this. But, I started watching Californication and there's something about watching washed up writers that makes me want to write, go figure.)

I've made the comment before that it was hard for me to rebel as a kid, because my parents never seemed to react in a significant way regardless of the circumstances I got myself into. Maybe this, this jagoff attitude I have, is the big rebellion against the old man. Committing myself to as little as possible while he works himself into an early grave.

The alternative is to try and be different, work in the system, be a "go getter", but, I just know that's not going to happen. I have bursts of productivity. I've always been like that. I truly have to be in the mood to do something, or be struck by some kind of subconscious urge to really get down and get anything done. Better just to accept that that's the kind of pattern I'm on, because every time I try to force myself out of it, I just end up frustrated and angry and STILL unable to produce anything.

I've never thought of myself as a "company man." I'm the guy that mocks the over achievers. Not always to their face, and not always with a clear conscience, but I still do it. I make cracks about hamsters on wheels and brown nosing and empty suits. The only time I go above and beyond is to build up a buffer of good will that I can use as a cushion if and definitely when I really fuck up later. I can be a hard worker, and consistently, but mostly it's just a con. I'm a con man, and what I'm swindling you out of is forgiveness for something I'm going to do in the future. My wife figured this out a while back, and it makes things difficult, you know because I can be a real piece of shit.

I blame being raised by TV, partly. I grew up with onscreen dads that discovered artifacts by shooting Nazis, and saved the day in universal wars by coming in at the last minute to do ONE awesome thing, and getting paid handsomely. Hmm. Maybe I just blame Harrison Ford. Either way, I grew up learning that having superior natural abilities and intelligence was the way to get ahead, and the coolest thing to be in life was a smart ass scoundrel. With his own ship. And a dog. That part, actually, I still think is true. But, overall, running on the Han Solo play book into your adult life only gets you so far; I guess this far.

I don't really ever retain good habits from anything that could actually probably help me out overall. Now, I might have a change of ideas, and my habits will shift according to new philosophy, but that's big picture stuff. Things like: don't be late, ever, or people deserve second chances or spend more time with your loved ones. Those are qualities I'd like to have so making the change is easy. As far as things like, put the dish in the dishwasher after you use it or change the oil in the car when it starts to rattle and smell funny, those are things that I KNOW make sense, but, for some reason just can't ever seem to give a shit about. And those two things I mentioned do make me a hypocrite as I have chastised multiple people about them on multiple occasions.

For whatever reason, that latter category, the one with the dish washing and the oil changes, is where all my personal projects have been filed. Guaranteeing that, even though I love to do it, and want to do it, it's going to be pulling teeth from start to finish for me to produce anything, which is just stupid.

I think what it boils down to is that I just have to stop worrying so much if something is going to happen or not before I'm food for worms. Like I said, my dad has that drive, that eye for the future and the coulda-shoulda-wouldas, but he also has one of the worst cases of miserable bastard syndrome I've ever seen. And, that is exactly what worrying about making something of myself does to me. It makes me fucking miserable.

So, is that the trick? I gotta want more, but not plan to have more? Maybe. Fly with all thrust and no rudder, the way GOD intended. Just fucking do my thing and not worry about what the hell it means or where the hell it fits, or pushing it into a direction. Just buy some shit that looks good from a tent on the side of the road, light away from face, and point at neighbor's house. Let chance and physics take care of the results.

Is the key to dealing with ambition just not giving a shit? That doesn't sound right. But, fuck it, I'm running with it for now. I honestly don't feel like coming up with anything else.

Chiggie Von Richthofen
...if you try sometimes, you just might find...