Sunday, February 05, 2023

The Grand American Experiment

Forty years after the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960's and 70s I had become comfortable thinking that even though pockets of racist bullshit still existed, they were the exceptions and not the rule as they were during Jim Crow before desegregation. The heavy lifting had been successful and in a few more decades, people of color or people of different ethnicity would be happily assimilated into the Grand American Experiment. Apparently our nation's racist roots run deeper and are more intractably entrenched than I thought.

My mistake in assuming we would all be each other's brother by this time was on me and my White Naivety. 

By the beginning of the 1980s,  I was confident I had shed the racist attitudes I had gathered growing up. I thought most white people had also. The problem is I did not appreciate the unstated advantages I still enjoyed as a white man. It was maybe 20 years ago I broadened my racial awareness by admitting to myself that just being white gave me a big head start over people of color and recent emigres, legal and illegal. 

Then, 14 years ago, the nation elected a back man President of the United States. Not only was he black, he turned out to be a very good president, one of the greats by my estimation.

The ugly racial undertones that had been simmering under our nation's surface again found the light of day. Frankly, I was shocked and totally caught off guard. I did not think this explosion of such widespread racial hatred was still so well entrenched everywhere I looked. 

The Blacks had for years insisted the job of bringing them into the fold was far from complete. Some even insisted race relations were worse than they had been 30, even 50 years ago. At least back then, the racism was in your face and not the insidious racism that saturates almost everything lurking in the dark corners of our culture and not out in the light of day. It's as ugly as it ever was.

My daughter's experience as a passenger in a car stopped for "driving while black"  10 years ago or so smacked the white apathy right out of me. The obvious racist and confrontational tonality of the stop by a state cop immediately became a non-confrontational every day white person stop once the cop spotted Lis. It reminded me of the time as a child when I watched White guys beat on Black protest marchers in Tallahassee, Florida. 

It was a revelation relived.  

Many Whites are still hating and resenting blacks. And the Whites in charge of most everything were at the least, unconsciously pushing White Privilege even if they did not know it. Now they feel accused unjustly without recognizing the insidious nature of the new style racism. Ever since my epiphany I have used different criteria for trying to understand any news worthy event where people of color, other religions, or ethnicity are involved. Now, instead of assuming prejudice of any kind was not involved, I try to assume nothing and allow the facts as I receive them paint the final picture for me. Call it a positive adjustment of the filter I use to observe the world around me.

The Founding Fathers wrote one hell of a political document when they produced the U.S. Constitution. The first document that consolidated many of the popular political ideas that were currently floating around as alternatives to the monarchical systems that ruled supreme at that time. It established a constitutional government made up of three separate branches of government that was formed by a democratic process. Individual rights were spelled out and protected by law. Or so the rank and file were fooled into believing. And they still are.

Problem was, White property owners made up the majority of the people who came to together to form a government.  The poor slobs, or call them the serf class, who did the actual hard work of taming our wild country were bamboozled into believing the Constitution was for them, "the people". It was to a degree, and to be fair, the Constitution placed conditions on the ruling classes and endowed everyone with a minimum of freedoms and protections. 

However, built into the great document that set our rules was legal language that gave the deep pockets the last say. In most states only White Male property owners could vote and when counting population,  Blacks were only counted as 3/5ths of a person. Women could not vote. Maybe the most egregious mistake right out of the gate, was the formation of the Electoral College and allowing the individual states to define how their elections were run and how they divided the state into voting districts. 

And though some efforts were made to expand the real democratic power to the people, in the end, power was safely in the hands of White property owners. The plantation and factory owners wanted last say and they got it.Everything the Founders did in the area of elections insured the White Rich Minority maintained control. 

The White Nationalist Racism we deal with today is really no different than the racist policies of America since its inception. The Merchant Class along with their mercantile class who are in charge of day to day operations, are an apolitical group whose main focus is profit; first and foremost. Capitalism runs this nation, ideologies are but window dressing.

Skin color, religion, sexual identity are nothing but current flash points to exploit and use to keep the serfs off their game and worrying about each other rather than the assholes who own and run everything. Until we realize it is economics that separate us and not the color of our skin, we will always been under their thumbs. 

It is called Capitalism and in the wrong hands can be every bit as oppressive as any other "ism". I do think it is possible to have Capitalism and still enjoy our fair share of the pie. Just right now, the deck is so stacked against all of us. They have us pissing on each other's worn shoes instead of pissing on the Wingtips of the Prince's of Wall Street.

So anyway, a random indignation that crossed my mind this morning has turned into something not so random and more indignant than I intended. And while I have been trying to remember to post positive bull shit, well............ old habits do indeed die hard.

Enjoy your Sunday .............................................

_____________________

I did not look far and wide for a tune to attach to the post. I thought of Tracy Chapman right away. Here is her song, "America". The lyrics are excellent. I have always liked Tracy's voice and well, enjoy.

A few lyrics from the song:

There was land to take
And people to kill
While you were conquering America
You served yourself
Did God's will
While you were conquering America

The ghost of Columbus haunts this world
'Cause you're still conquering America
The meek won't survive
Or inherit the earth
Cause you're still conquering America

You found bodies to serve
Submit and degrade
While you were conquering America
Made us soldiers and junkies
Prisoners and slaves
While you were conquering America

Thursday, February 02, 2023

My First Snowman


I decided to check into some of the Kodak moments my father captured on the Nikon he got for Christmas in the early 1950's. He was always taking pictures. Before the great basement flood of 1965 at our house at 5616 Roosevelt St.,  Bethesda, Maryland, he claimed he had over 10,000 B&W and color slides of his life in the late 1930s up to the flood. The flood destroyed 3/4 of his collection at least.

Too bad., my father was a good photographer. And he snapped pics in many parts of the World over that time. I think his heart took a hit when he had to toss so many in the trash. 

So this afternoon I dug out one of the metal bins that contained some remaining loose slides and began to check them out. Of all the ones I looked at, this one caught my attention. I do not remember building that snowman. According to the caption written in pencil on the border of the slide, I was only five years old at the time. I assume also that I had some help, given the quality of work and detail. But then I could have been a snowman building prodigy. Who knows?

This slide had some damage. I messed with it awhile and came up with it in a black and white version. Black and white seems appropriate given this was taken in the mid 1950's. I do remember the backyard we had in Japan. Bare, nothing in it but grass surrounded by a fence.

Overall, memories of my time in Japan are flashes of disconnected moments that come with no regularity, no context or continuity. They come and they go. I remember dirt roads, air strips and a small school on base. 

The other odd thing that sticks in my mind is we had servants then. My dad explained it later to me as having gopher's, etc was a byproduct of his rank and that we were in post war Japan. Their economy was toast. It was the US and its Marshall plan that dragged them back to the world economically. To that end, the occupying military put as many Japanese to work as possible. So we had a house maid, a house man / gardener, and a chauffeur who was a US Airman. 

The one memory I have that is always the same is of our house maid. First of all, she insisted on helping me dress and bathe. I didn't mind the bath so much, but when she insisted on tucking my shirts inside my underwear, we came to blows. Apparently she was ready to quit because I would pull my shirt out as soon as she left the room. To this day, I think stuffing a shirt into underwear is well, stupid and damn uncomfortable.

Funny what a blast from the past will dredge up.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ........................................

__________________________

Music for this post came down to a choice between a Metal version of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Snowman" by Mind Underminers. I chose "Snowman". The video dovetails better with the image. Good tune.


Sunday, January 29, 2023

The New GOP Book Clubs

Seems the White Nationalists, better known as MAGA Republicans, have decided to expand their horizons. And while they expand theirs, they hope to shrink the horizons of the rest of us. They feel there is entirely too much uncontrolled information floating around out there. Humans are simple souls and can only handle the true words as laid down in the Bible and maybe a few more carefully chosen notions as decided by folks more in tune with what God wants.

Too much information creates problems. The more informed the people are, the more difficult to control their tendencies to wander from the one true path. So, the GOP, in cahoots with National Evangelicals and those wacky QANON folks have taken it upon themselves to stop the confusion and mayhem that unrestrained knowledge has brought down on the poor people of the the United States of America.

Bless their hearts.

I am told they are only doing this for our own good, for the nation's good; for white folk everywhere. After all, it is certainly what our White blue eyed Christian God would want. Too much information only befuddles folks and muddies the waters our nation is struggling to navigate. 

Most of the new GOP book clubs being formed are treading lightly at first. Others, like the one created last year near Nashville, Tennessee by Mt Juliet pastor and pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Greg Locke decided to not pussy foot around. They went full metal jacket, full Monty, full fuckin bore and had a barbecue using for fuel, anything in print they felt was unnecessary baggage for the simple white folk hoping to lead a righteous life dedicated to the word of our white blue eyed god. 

Other White Winger book clubs across the midlands and the South have decided to ease into the process of cleansing our minds of useless information without the fanfare and waste of time book turnings always turn into.. Working inside the already corrupt and immoral systems of government that now saturate our land, they have created smaller book clubs who are working to change the rules first, thus clearing the way to cleanse our minds through acts of law. They are assuming that if they pass the law, it will be respected. It's not like the useless and sacrilegious legislation the God hating Left proposes. Laws passed by good Christians will have the Good God Stamp of Approval.

Governor of Florida, Rhonda Santis is leading the charge by banishing certain curricula from the state schools. Local school boards and town councils have taken it upon themselves to help him out by banning certain books from leaving library shelves throughout the state.

And because the godless heathens of our great land have nary the inkling nor the drive to do what is right, it falls upon the shoulders of good Christian folk to guide them to the Light. Their journey will be so much easier once we have rid the land of the blasphemous, devil worshiping evil that hides in schools and on library shelves everywhere.

Can some someone give me a hallelujah? 

And for Christ's sake please keep it 'tween the ditches ................

___________________________

Damn. What music could possibly be connected to this post? "Losing My Religion", by R.E.M. first came to mind. Immediately though, I remembered that classic Bobby Bare tune, "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through to Goalposts of Life". ............. Yeah, that's the one. Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Notion of Normal


Finally a snowstorm worth mentioning; a classic January all day inch plus an hour dusting. My wife and I discussed it. We decided it had been at least three winters since we had a dumping like yesterday's. Thirty years ago we would have four or five a season at least. Our average winter in Acton was in the neighborhood of 90 to 100 inches total. Yesterdays 18" storm and the 6 incher three days ago more than doubled our total for the season so far. I am guessing at this point we are around 40 inches total.

In other news the New Normal chugs along. More mass shootings, Trump wins another golf tournament on his own course, and the hand wringers in DC continue to promise that we can get the out of control gun madness under control with common sense gun laws. .................... 

Wait a minute. ..... The myth of common sense gun laws is part of the Old Normal. Common sense regarding guns left the barn 40 years ago at least; so any of the go to gun control rhetoric of yesteryear now goes in one ear out the other now. 

So bottom line is, there is no Normal, old or new. There is no Back Then nor any Until Then. There is only Now which is totally unconcerned with Back Then or Until Then. Normal never happens, nor will it happen in our future. Reality is ambivalent to our petty, weak attempts to put it in a box. Even the name or description we give it does not live up to the hype, never mind even believing in there is a notion that can satisfactorily define Normal.

_________________

An Aside, or is it a Post Script? ..... If nothing else, it is at least a BTW

Once again my tendency to reach past my abilities to control myself  were rudely brought into focus on Monday morning. You may or may not remember or even care about Sunday's post and my efforts to find ways to avoid accidental napping. I mentioned I had come up with a Poor Man's Cafe Mocha. 

Well, because I found success with the new beverage, of course I had to try to improve it. So I invented a new alcoholic drink I have named the "Skrewball Toe Warmer". Basically it is a "Poor Man's Cafe Mocha with a generous shot of Skrewball added. 

At 70 proof, the very tasty peanut butter whiskey can kick an ass if that ass is not paying attention. I consumed at least one, maybe two too many during the Bills / Bengals game. I lost touch after the third or fourth one and the second joint.

At least I stayed awake. 

Overall it was a hoot. Just before my eyes finally shut down around 2:00 AM, Sunday night, I remember thinking I don't handle hangovers well anymore. When I opened them around 6:00 AM, I was reminded of that fact which became the driving reason I stopped drinking to excess years ago. I spent Monday watching it snow and feeling sorry for my sorry self. 

As I have done countless times in my past, I thought I would again try to draw a lesson from my trip down stupidity lane. I could not do it. It would be the same lesson I learned years ago and apparently chose one more time to ignore. 

Being stupid brings with it a myriad of self inflicted pay backs. All I can do is hope I survive them.

______________________________

Once long ago in the 1970s I was hijacked, kidnapped, made off with to a sprawling bar not far off the I-95 in Delaware. I was told I would have a great time, listening to and drinking to a band called "The Destroyers". My kidnappers were right. I have to say George Thorogood and the Destroyers, as they later became known as, are/were the best bar band I have ever seen. David Bromberg is close, but for the rowdiest time I can remember, that night with George sits at the top.

Anyway, here is his hit, "I drink alone"

There were many video versions. I picked this one with actors you may know playing or overplaying the drunk routine. Again, this is another tune best experienced with the volume in the WOW range. ............Enjoy!


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Poor Man's Cafe Mocha

When I was young and numb, caution was not something I practiced when abusing drugs. I often "over medicated" and was then left to deal with unconsciousness or at the least incoherence. There are sizable blank moments in the replays that flit through my mind of those substance abusing days in the 1960's and 1970's. If one hit of LSD was fun, two hits the next time had to be better.  

To be fair to the hallucinogens I ingested back in the day, I never had a bad trip. I had a few unpleasant trips, but never any "wrap me up in a strait jacket" kind of trips. I will say though, tripping while baby sitting Snake's great grandmother as she muttered in her coffin came close to putting me over the edge. Thankfully, Snake and I only had to sit with her for a couple of hours. We had been tasked with sitting with her longer, but we were caught having too much fun when a more somber and respectful temperament was indicated. It is very hard to keep a straight face in a crowd of funeral attendees.

I wish I could remember the conversation I had with her, but well, I don't. 

Okay it's 50 years later now and it is apparent I survived. How many brain cells I brought with me is open to question, but around age 30, I began to gear it down with the drugs and alcohol to a point where joining the Human Race was all I had left. All in all, these many years of being quasi-sane have been a hoot. But there are moments I .................... Well, there are times I have fond memories of being stupid.

Since I am retired  now, I don't have to be a responsible adult 24/7 anymore. I can and have mastered the art of doing nothing and being okay with it. Problem is, one of the more aggravating realities of being older is my proclivity to fall asleep at inopportune moments. I can have three coffees in me and if I sit for more than 15 minutes, I might settle into a full mouth open snore. Of course half of the fat joint I toked with those three coffees might bear some of the responsibility.

If I was a logical man, a man of common sense like I was when I found sanity enough to raise a family, own a business and walk and chew gum at the same time, I would cut out the joint or at least only take a few tokes. But why settle for a light buzz when a couch locking buzz from half that joint .......... remember the abusing rule,  if one hit is good, two must be better. So it goes for tokes also.

One morning as I sat with my first coffee, I looked at the doob I had rolled to kick off my day. I decided to forgo the joint and just drink the coffee. A caffeinated pot buzz was great, but hey fella, take a fuckin break. Just coffee this morning.  The result -My usual three cups with no joint and I still fell asleep on the couch before 1:00 PM. I only sat down for a moment. At least that was my intention.

Cutting out my "wake and bake" doober did not increase my chance of making it too late afternoon without a nap. What to do? For the next week or so as I returned to my daily dose of cannabis and coffee, I pondered how I could beat this old fart fatigue routine I had fallen into. 

Yesterday, I sat at the kitchen table finishing my first coffee. I looked across the table to the set in nook that has become a catch all for some of the bits and pieces accumulated over time. There, among the flotsam and jetsam, I noticed the box of caffeinated chocolate pieces my wife keeps around to take to her office. She is having some trouble with fatigue also. These chocolate pieces are called "Awake". We have tried several different brands, but Awake pieces are the tastiest and most effective ones we have come across. 

Up until yesterday I had left them mostly alone as they were for my wife and they are also too easy to eat. Eating just one is almost as hard as eating just one potato chip. They are some tasty and will wind me up if I eat more than a couple.

A Eureka moment slowly developed before my eyes as I sipped my coffee and looked at the box of caffeinated chocolate pieces.  What would it taste like if I plopped one of the "Awake" pieces in a coffee cup, poured in the coffee, tossed in some sugar and over did the cream? Would that be akin to anything I could get at Starbucks? I did not know the answer. I have only been in a Starbucks a few times in my life. But I asked myself anyway.

As it turns out, my Poor Man's Cafe Mocha  is a sensational hit. Yesterday I didn't snooze until after supper. And today so far, I'm still wide eyed and bushy tailed, and its closing in on two o'clock in the PM. I think I may just fix myself another for the Bills/ Bengal game coming up at three. 

I had remembered the lesson from my  LSD days ........ If one hit is a good trip, two hits must be an even better trip.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ....................................

___________________________

A song about coffee is what I was looking for. The first song I came across was, "The Coffee Song", as only Frank Sinatra could sing it. It is a real toe tappin, swingin jazz tune. You're welcome!


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Haters of Rainbows

Another post about the current crop of social media assholes passed by on my Facebook feed this morning. It only bolstered my feeling that Facebook is as far down the social media rabbit hole I am willing to go. I have stopped checking my feeds on Twitter and Tribe Social. Any thought of joining TikTok, Instagram, or other new Internet hangouts has left my building. The pasteurized stupidity Facebook allows is about all I want to deal with. 

A recent post I assume that came from Twitter or Instagram regarded the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd's, "Dark side of the Moon". It caused homophobic assholes throughout the land to pucker hard because of the use of a rainbow in a logo. 

It does not matter to these homophobic trolling jerk wads that Pink Floyd's use of a rainbow on the original album pre-dated the inaugural use of the rainbow by the gay community by 6 years. Their intolerance of anything even remotely connected to their brain dead imagined evils of homosexuality is the grist they feed on as they work to take away many of the freedoms so many folks have fought for these past 250 years. That these losers are almost solely white pecker-woods makes me feel shame that my skin color matches theirs.

The Haters' poisonous notions and twisted perceptions of how Life should be, seep, ooze, and percolate rancid into every function of Society. They blacken and sully even the most innocent of ideals and public discourse. It matters not what it is folks are tolerant of, these haters of rainbows, books with different ideas, and the people who are different from them, ...... these haters of  things that should not matter are about intolerance first and foremost.

The intolerance, hatred, and pure evil that poisons their thoughts has created insular small minded communities that are a pox on all of us. Tolerating their existence without a fight is in my opinion a recipe for disaster down the road. 

Hate and Intolerance will always exist on the fringes and in the dark spaces of our human interactions. Left unchecked, their hate and intolerance can multiply and grow, turning the populations into scared mindless drones who rely on the vagaries of an uncaring ruler class for their right to exist.

The solution is easy and at the same time difficult. Do not tolerate their Hate. The problem is getting the apathetic off  their asses long enough to recognize the real danger the Haters represent. Apathy often wakes when it is too late.

I have tried to stop allotting them any square footage in my mind. But their efforts to ruin all the good Humanity has managed to attain through the many years of trial, death and desolation ....... Well, fuck em and the righteous horse they rode in on.

Seems it is indeed easier to hate than to love ....................................

__________________

The first song I checked out about intolerance was Tool's, "Intolerance". I almost pulled the plug in the first 30 seconds, but then I told myself this was Tool. Crank it up and give em a shot. Cranking the volume and a few more tokes did the trick. At full tilt boogie, your brain will feel it more than hear it.


Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Myth of Dorothy

Facebook let me know it is my half sister's birthday today. I found the birthday notification somewhat odd as Joan passed away in September, 2021. 

I first met Joan on a trip to Texas to drop off some inherited goodies from my Aunt Helen's estate. That was in the late 1980's. We had had no contact before nor have we connected since. I met my half brother Bob jr. on the same trip. 

It was a once in both our lifetimes brief connection to attempt to heal wounds that were not of our making. We all decided what was, was not now and we all had nothing to do with it anyway, other than being witnesses to the extreme dysfunction that ran through our two families for a period. 

Their mother was my father's second wife. She went off the deep end in the 1940's while my father was still stationed in post WWll Europe . Dorothy moved to Mexico and took the children with her. My father never saw them again until after they were adults and Dorothy had passed.

As a child growing up,  all I knew about the situation were from infrequent alcohol infused rants by my dad. His take was; Dorothy was a crazy woman and she had done him wrong. He claimed she smacked him around sometimes. She was the reason I grew up in a household on half of the salary my father received as a Air Force officer.

And so the myth of Dorothy grew in my ten year old mind. I envisioned an evil witch with an evil face and huge biceps knocking my badass father on his ass. Yeah, I was seriously afraid of her because of the reputation my father had construed in moments of drunken regret.

Then in 1961, she called our house in Chevy Chase, Maryland and threatened my life. I was dead if my dad did not send her more money. Apparently my half siblings were of age by then and the child support checks had dried up.

My father was not at home; he was in Florida working a new job after retiring from the Air Force. Mom and I were still in Maryland so she could button up things and let me finish the third grade in Maryland and then start the fourth grade fresh in Florida.

My room at the time opened on the front foyer. On the wall next to the stairs leading up to the living room was a small table with a phone. The sizable expanse of the foyer caused the phone to ring so loud it often woke me up. It rang one night and my mom, who was in the laundry room next to my bedroom, answered it. 

I will always remember that call. It went something like this:

"Hello, Macrum residence."

Indiscernible wah wah sound of someone speaking on the line.

"What did you just say? ............. Kill Bug? ......... Who is this?"

I remember climbing out of bed and standing next to the door. I remember panic and fear as the rest of the call played out. By the end of it, my mother was hysterical and I was literally shaking and crying. That may have been the first day of more than a few I would never forget.

The back and forth on the phone lasted maybe another minute and then my mom slammed the phone down and sort of collapsed on the love seat next to the phone table. I was frozen. I remember not knowing what I should do or if what I had heard was supposed to even be heard by me. Was I in trouble for hearing it? Was somebody really going to kill me? After a moment standing next to that door and listening to my mom sob, I decided that I was not going to comfort her because I was too afraid of being caught listening in on a conversation I definitely understood was not for my ears. I have always felt some regret for not going to her. 

I climbed back in bed and covered myself completely with the bed covers. I don't remember sleeping after that, but I must have. I woke the next morning on top of urine soaked sheets. I was not a bed wetter as a child really, so for a moment I did not understand. Then the previous night played itself back in my mind. The shaking, the panic, the fear began all over again.

Mom called an FBI agent who lived a few houses away. He came to the house that next morning. He and my mom went up to the living room and I was kicked out of the house and told to go out and play. I noticed my mom had recovered some and was no longer the basket case she was ten hours earlier. She had a new dress on and she had put her face on; what she referred to as applying makeup. She once again was that bad ass mom I had learned to love in spite of the distance she kept between us.

Of course I did not go outside for long. I came back in on the premise of going to the bathroom. I never left after, deciding to sit at the bottom the stairs to the living room and eavesdrop on the conversation between our FBI neighbor and my mother. As they lost themselves in their conversation, I took the opportunity to slowly sneak up the stairs to a better vantage point. 

What I heard actually helped me calm myself some. Both my mom and the agent spoke in even tones with no emotion really, just as a normal conversation would unfold. That helped me immensely. The agent was very clear more than once that he could not get involved but he would check into what he could. The one part of the conversation I remember well is him advising my mom to find a safe haven for me; a relative, a friend, etc. My mom told him we were going to be moving to Florida and that my dad was already there. She also told him she was positive it was Dorothy who called. He asked why. She said because Dorothy was a maniac and had done the same thing shortly after I was born.

That afternoon I was on a flight to Tampa, Florida with one of those damn information filled notes pinned to the lapel of my itchy new suit Mom bought me at Garfinkels department store just across the line in Washington, DC. I hated that suit and found a way to ruin it a few weeks later.

I did not tell my mom I knew about the phone call until I was in my twenties. 

We got word sometime in the early 1970's Dorothy had passed. We also found out she died of a brain tumor that had probably been growing for years. Immediately the family kind of forgave the madness and upheaval she instigated. For me, I felt some guilt over hating her so much.

Odd, what a simple birthday notice from Facebook can create on a Saturday morning.

Later ....................................

BTW - The image above is the only picture I have of Joan, my half sister from Texas. What I knew of her, I liked. 

_______________________ 

Joan spent her early life in Mexico and then settled in Brownsville, Texas to become a juvenile parole officer. She ended her career as a honcho somewhere in the Texas state bureaucracy and later would get into social services, working with Hispanic children living in poverty. I thought a musical tribute should be in Spanish. Here is "The Happy Birthday Song" in Spanish. It is so much better than ours. 

And yeah, I know she is dead. ...... So what?


Thursday, January 12, 2023

The New Normal ?

The Robins and Cardinals are back. They are early this year just as they were early last year. We have had less than 2 feet of snow total for the winter. Most of our local lakes and ponds still have some open water and there are only a few daring souls who go out on the ice on foot to get their ice fishing fix. 

And I thought last winter was weird. Might this be the new "normal"?

What's done is done and by the way, it matters little now who or what is to blame. Global Warming / Climate Change" is an obvious part of our lives now. The fact is we are well into a cycle that most experts claim is irreversible. The proponents differ on how it might play out, but they all agree we are in for some dark times ahead, climate wise. The best we can do is try to mitigate the damage and find ways to adjust.

The time is well past for the leaders around this planet to have placed Climate Change at the top of their to do list. Instead of asking how do we deal with this change, our world leaders allowed petty regional politics to drive their policies regarding Global Warming. Pissing on each other's feet or acting as if Global Warming was no big thing only insures a catastrophic outcome sooner than later. 

Poor messaging by the Global Warming alarmists back in the 1970's set this issue squarely in the political arena. They seemed more intent in assigning blame than pushing to find remedies. That this issue has become the huge political football it still is, testifies to how much they fucked up. So much time was wasted on the anger of blame, the important information never found the audience it needed. Had the message instead of the vitriol been in the forefront, tangible change that might have at least forestalled the impact and given us a few more years or decades to find answers. 

Oh well.

And the Global Warming deniers, well, they embraced angry political stupidity when their leaders knew the smart guys were right. And so it went, many wasted years of useless accusations resulting in even more useless denials which left us in our unenviable position of not being ready in any way for the inevitable "I told you so" so many smart folk warned us of over fifty years ago.

My mantra about Global Warming has always been: 

"Assigning blame is stupid. Searching for mitigation is what we need to do. But the one thing we should cease doing immediately is shitting in our own nest. We are killing ourselves."

It is 2023 now and I am beyond being pissed, disappointed, or sad. I am all done with trying to convince anyone the planet has shifted gears. We did this to ourselves. Fuck em. I will let the planet tell them. Maybe then we will finally have everyone on board in time to watch our ship sink into the rising seas.

Later .....................................

____________________________

I previewed more than a few tunes regarding Global Warming/Climate Change. I was almost sold on Jimmy Clif's reggae tune, "Save our planet Earth". I do like Reggae. Then I remembered Joni Mitchell, the woman who put Global Warming into the minds of millions of Baby Boomers back in the day. Her tune, "Big Yellow Taxi" is oh, so more relevant than it was back in 1970 when it was released. What the song predicted is now our reality. Damn are we stupid or what?


Monday, January 09, 2023

Ice Fishing Under a Setting Moon

I should have taken more notice yesterday when I posted that early morning image of the moon setting over Loon Pond, one of our local bodies of water here in Acton. It was not a fluke, not a one off chance in a million Kodak moment. These images are always possible here, just not so obvious as they were two nights ago. This last full moon resulted in a myriad of images taken by local residents. The heavens literally came together with the beautiful landscape here to produce a few moments of perfect conditions rendering a multitude of wonderful pictures that have been posted on local Facebook pages.

Images like these are always a reminder about how lucky I am to live in Acton. My problem is after fifty years plus of Acton, Maine in my life, the special privilege of living here is oftentimes taken for granted. Over the years of making a life, the trials and troubles encountered conspired to narrow my focus to what was in my face at the moment while the grand picture outside of my field of vision often went unnoticed. Not being able to see the forest for the trees comes to mind.

Yeah, these wonderful pictures from around town recently caused me to remember a major reason I chose to spend my life in Maine.


The top image was taken by one the boys who decided to hit the lake for some early morning ice fishing. I do not know who took it. A mom posted it without saying what lake it was. It actually could be somewhere other than Acton. I assume it is local though.

The image immediately above was taken on Loon Pond here in Acton.

___________________________

John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame released a solo album, "Thunderthief " in 2001. It was his 2nd solo album. I never pictured him with any instrument in his hands other than an electric bass. Apparently, he is multi-talented. On this album, he wrote a song about ice fishing at night with some very nice piano work. It is called.......... wait for it ............ "Ice Fishing at Night".


Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Spud's Kielbasa and Sauerkraut

I am fairly proficient at cooking up meals that some would call mindless meals that cook themselves. But even mindless meals that only need some heat over time can become a ruined cluster fuck if I am in charge. So of course I was feeling some pressure when I announced I would cook dinner last night. 

For the first hour as it warmed up, I stirred it at least ten times. Better too many stirs than blacken the veggies or meat. You can't come back from black, though personally, a little charring is okay with me. It is my lovely wife who hates the aesthetic and taste of charred meat or vegetables.

All the while I was cutting up the ingredients and dumping them into the dutch oven, the TV droned on about how much of a rodeo clown show extravaganza the Republican side of the House of Representatives had become.

LOL bigtime!

I watched reporters trying to elicit meaningful comments out of Republicans who happened to walk out of the House Chamber. Every one of them stood rod up their ass rigid with mouths set hard as if they were all suffering pain they did not understand. Their comments were curt and/or non-existent. They were not happy that in three votes they had not chosen a Speaker of the House yet. Where had that famous GOP solidarity gone? 

The image immediately put a grin on my face that lasted all day and yeah, I am still smiling today because we are going for a repeat of yesterday. 

I thought, "Good.... You fuckin assholes deserve this. You have only yourselves to blame. I am loving watching you destroy yourselves."

On the other hand, any Democrat encountered in the halls were more than happy to engage reporters. They were smiling, kidding around, and stood relaxed with a look of smugness on some of their mugs while they engaged the press. The meltdown among their colleagues across the aisle was making their day.

I then thought, "Okay you flounders, don't be getting all uppity like you belong to a big happy coalition. You Democrats are very rarely ever all on the same page. Enjoy it while it lasts. And don't blow this chance the GOP has handed you."

And for once I actually thought the Democrats were being smart by not commenting too harshly or openly poking the GOP bear. They are happy it seems, to sit back and allow the Right to self destruct.

Thank you Donald Trump. 

Nothing makes my day more than a roomful of unhappy Republicans.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .....................................

________________________________

I had to test drive many tunes today before I came across this Bruce Hornsby tune,  "The Way it Is". Bruce and his piano have always been able to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. This tune certainly delivered the shivers. As to what it might have to do with the post, well, I think it fits. It's just the way it is.


Tuesday, January 03, 2023

The Last Dawn

I was going to avoid any mention of 2022 from a personal perspective. I came out of it still breathing. What more could I really care about 2022? Then I ran across Robin's first Facebook post of 2023. She takes great photos and as usual, this one was up to that standard. It was a picture of her first dawn of 2023.

I missed taking a picture of my first 2023 dawn here in the pucker brush of Maine. I figured I would respond to Robin's post with my own New Year's Eve image on the left. Taken from my dooryard on Sam Page Road, here is the last Dawn of 2022. 

It makes sense that I would post a picture from last year as I have entered a stage of Life that leans heavily on remembering the past over gazing into the future. I used to look forward to what was coming; imagining what might be be on its way and even sometimes making plans on how to handle all that had not happened yet. Now, I'm pretty much done concerning myself with what might be around the next corner. 

Each year that passes now increasingly inhibits my ability to affect events now unfolding nearby or faraway. The futures that are on their way belong to the generations that follow me. All I really can do is pass meaningless judgement on how they are doing. Because I do not feel that I, nor my generation as a whole, deserve any more credit than being able to claim at least the planet did not blow up on our watch; any snide comments or other forms of derision I might be inclined to aim at folks with less years under their belts, well, that would present me as the personification of the contrary "get the fuck off my lawn" old fart. 

Sometimes I am irritated that I have fallen into comfortable and predictable lifestyles that I railed against when I was 40 years younger. I was sure I would not be my father, my mother, or any number of the old fogies I felt sorry for when I had more gitty up in my step. I did not realize just how the process of aging tends to bring with it a universal equalization we all have to deal with. Getting old is no fucking picnic, but we don't appreciate it until it has us by the short hairs. I can now understand why so many older folks have such shitty outlooks. That is a trap I find myself fighting on a daily basis.

I gave up wondering why I am so preoccupied with trips down memory lane. When I really dug deep for an answer, all I came up with was I regretted not paying more attention to the old folks in my life when they would begin to wax nostalgic. I had no time for tales from other pasts than my own. And though I did listen more than many of my contemporaries, I certainly forgot or did not even hear many of the wonderful stories the old farts in my life had to share. So I determined a decade or so ago, I would make sure that even if nobody in the future read my memoirs, I would record them in some fashion so to increase the odds somebody might trip over them and maybe for a minute or two, experience what my life was like in some small degree. 

I have realized that telling tales from a past life is fodder for the tales of the future. So much of what we become depends on what our forebears were and what they did in our mutual pasts. I will continue to offer up my interpretations of  my past so that maybe they will help someone somewhere sometime in the future to crack a smile, nod their head, or just be outraged at the things we did before they were born. If nothing else, tales from my crypt in some infinitesimal way, might help a future life through some rough patches they may be having. 

The Past writes the Future with tales that warn and tales of Hope. To disregard anyone's life experience as unworthy of note is the worst kind of disrespect. Everyone has life experiences we all can identify with, be awed by, and make us cry. Nobody's life is worthless.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .............................................

_____________________

BTW - December of almost any year in my life is a month I search out any depression I may have kicking around. My father taught me this through his own battles with the Black Days of Christmas. I cannot use him as the excuse, just as the spark. It is on me regarding my outlook on Life. No one else. 

Later ..........................................

________________________

Music for this post is probably a repeat. It is one of the Top Five songs of my Life. It is a tune I turned to many times over the years to explain the many intervals of Depression. It often helped me dig myself out. Here is David Bromberg's, "Someone Else's Blues" .............. Enjoy!



Monday, January 02, 2023

Potatoes with Legs

BA and I recently spent four weeks fostering a momma pit bull and her litter for an animal shelter in the region. Her litter of five potatoes with legs would be her spitting image if not for the randomness of the spots.

Momma was a sweetheart. She was also deaf. There was a steep learning curve for us on how to communicate with her. She understood the sign language for sit and stay. Occasionally a miscommunication of arm flaying and hand gestures combined with her serious stubborn streak could be an issue. For the most part she and I got along wonderfully. 

My wife and I have had experience fostering momma cats and their litters. That was over twenty years ago. I assumed it would be a similar experience, only the animals were bigger. ........... Right ........... That was my first wrong assumption of more than a few to come. 

My first hint that fostering a dog and puppies was going to be different was when the nice folks at the shelter loaded 70 pounds of dry puppy chow, almost 5 cases of canned wet puppy food, and some transitional food for when switching the little bastids from weaning to solid food. Last but not least, they threw in a scale so we could keep track of the weights of the potatoes as they changed from deaf and blind fur covered individual metabolisms into an evil, but cute multi-headed monster with twenty legs and five assholes who dedicated every waking moment to driving me and BA bonkers.

Our first clue we were not ready for this was when we tried to introduce our dog, Maggie, to Momma pit bull. I am so grateful I had braced myself and the leash holding Momma. She attempted to tear my arm off trying to attack Magggie. No blood was spilled, just some frayed nerves. That incident was all on me and BA. We did not consider the protective impulse of a female dog who was actively nursing a brood. Sadly, it spoiled any future effort to bring them together.

What amazed me was the diet the shelter had set up for me to follow. Momma was to have three meals a day. In just shy of 4 weeks, she ate almost 35 pounds of dry food and 28 cans of wet food. The shit piles she dropped after each meal had to be record breakers. But she was a nursing mom and eating for six. The shelter assured us she needed that much nutrition.

I found the experience to be both endearing and extremely stressful. Momma was a good mother. She cleaned up their messes and their little bodies for the first three weeks. But when they became mobile and their eyesight was beginning to come into focus, she hesitated to nurse them like she used to. She spent longer periods outside the nursing room, choosing instead to lounge on a bed and snooze to her heart's content. 

That was when we began to feed the little wigglers a gruel of canned puppy chow mixed with some water. Had we not been so integral to the comedy that followed, we might have enjoyed it more. But I have to say, a litter of puppies weighing approximately 5 pounds each is a situation of chaos that is not remedied, just survived.

I returned Momma and her pups to the shelter. A vet tech took charge of the puppies and another handled Momma. I helped unload all the extra food, gear and carriers. On one trip inside to the area where Momma and her pups were to be set up, I stopped to have final look at the gang. All of them were hanging out at the gate looking at me. 

It has been awhile since I have felt that amount of guilt over doing the right thing.

Later ...................................

____________________________

For the musical choice today, I let Google guide me. I punched in "Metal Music about Puppies" .......   

And the first choice is the winner! Here is some Dog Metal and the real crowd pleaser, "The Bubbas / Who poo-poo'd in my house".

It's short and sweet with a heavy bass beat. Up to wow might be a tad brutal.



Wednesday, December 28, 2022

FOE

I am not even sure what the dream's initial intent was. It had been in play for awhile. The few moments of the scene I remembered overwhelmed the rest of the story. And it is odd, but once again, it was the final words spoken to me that ended it and caused my eyes to open.

I stepped out of a townhouse that had a front yard made up of fresh asphalt instead of the classic small city patch of green set next to a crumbling concrete strip driveway. My boss; that is I assume he was my boss, was bent down next to the driver's side of a big black four door sedan parked behind our company van. He stood up and signaled me to come over. As I passed the sedan, I could not really see what was inside because of the tinted windows. I could tell however, the car was full of people.

Before I could pass the car, the passenger door opened and a tall black guy stepped out. He was wearing a long black robe , a beard, and a black Fez with no tassel. He turned on me as if surprised. Emblazoned on his Fez in gold were the letters FOE. A horizontal line cut through the O. He glared at me, turned back and walked to our company van. The sliding door opened and he got in. 

The brief moment the car door was open gave me a good look inside the car. In the back seat four more huge people in black robes sat crammed in shoulder to shoulder. All of them were staring straight ahead in silence. All four wore black Fez hats, only two had veils draped over their face. I immediately assumed these were the ladies of their group. The driver wore an all white robe but had on the same FOE Fez as the others.

I rounded the front of the car and stopped. Facing this huge automobile, I noted the resemblance to the Mercedes Benz's of my youth, only instead of the classic Mercedes Benz symbol sticking out of the hood, the hood now sported the same gold letters inside a circle of black found on the Fez's everyone was wearing.

My boss finished his conversation with the driver and turned to me. "Stay here and keep these folks amused. I will be right back." 

Without another word he walked to our company van, got in and drove off. Always eager to please, I approached the still open driver's window with a broad smile and some serious small talk to share.

"So, how do you like this car?"

No response. I followed up with, "It is a beauty."

The driver turned to me wearing a very unfriendly face under that black Fez with the letters FOE pasted on the front. His dark eyes cut right through me.

"I like this car much more than I like you."

................... That is when I woke up. 

BTW, I only share this dream because I remembered it in such detail. I figure that writing it down might add some understanding to the dream. Most times, like now, it did not help to write it down.

Oh Well ........ Keep it 'tween the ditches .....................................

___________________________

This song planted hard before I even finished the post. A long ago tune from my past. Here is "All I have to do is dream", by The Everly Brothers - from 1958. I was six years old.


Friday, December 23, 2022

Feliz Navidad

After taking some time away from the noise and confusion of the world outside my small patch, I decided that instead of another bitch and complain post or another trip down memory lane, I would just follow the lead of so many folks who turn this time of the year to counting blessings.

I admit that counting my blessings is hit or miss with me. It is even worse when counting the blessings of others. And I have always shied away from assuming Life is a bowl of cherries for anyone. 

We all put up with negativity in our lives; some self inflicted, much of it not. It is often easier to stop looking forward with an open heart and open mind. Yet, that is what I am bound and determined to try to do this year. My record is not great. But this is the season from which Hope springs, even if it isn't for eternity.

So instead of counting blessings, as there are far too many to note; instead, just savor those blessings for what they are, what they were and what they might become in the future.

Happy Holidays to all out there on the other side of my horizon.  ........  Merry Christmas! .....Feliz Navidad! ........  And of course Happy Hanukkah.  

If I missed someone, oh well. Just borrow one of the other sentiments. No one will mind.

 Tis the season to un-bunch our panties.

________________________

My favorite Christmas song has to be "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano 


Sunday, December 04, 2022

The New Cat - Next Chapter

Squiggle turned around, sat down and faced the field of battle.

"Yesssssss ...... I have successsssssfully hisssssssed and slasssshed my way to the top."

" They will now heed my every beck and call."

"Today, the Macrum Home."

"Tomorrow ............ "

Squiggle paused in her reverie; licked some blood from her left paw and yawned.

"Tomorrow ........... the World."

"But right now ........... it'ssssssss nap time."

_____________________

Music for this post .............. "Stray Cat Strut", by The Stray Cats.


Thursday, December 01, 2022

The New Cat

I have shared my life and my home with many fur buddies over the last forty plus years. Six dogs and too many cats to remember at the age of 70 have puked, shit, and torn up our home from time to time over that period. For every irritating stupid pet trick they pulled, I still came back for more. Pets, no, I can't call them pets; ..... my diminutive four legged fur buddies have enriched my life and probably when it is all said and done and I sit in an urn on the mantel as a pile of crusty dust , well, someone may just note that the furry members of my family kept me sane when I needed to be the most.

Which brings me to the new cat.

We went through a period twenty plus years ago or so when we were fostering momma kitties and sick kittens. At the time we had I am guessing, 8 or 9 other full time feline inmates we called our own. It was a madhouse of too many litter boxes and never ending barf detail. My wife, the accountant, can give you more precise numbers, but let's just say we were tripping over the little bastids. And contrary to the image that I am a contrary ole fart, I was loving Life. Bring em on.

We found our limit. Told ourselves no more new cats. We successfully abstained from adoption or fostering until there was only one cat and one dog left. I reveled in the fact that we now only had one litter tray and the random acts of barfing had become almost non-existent.

But, the quiet and solitude would not last. After three years, neither my wife nor I were happy with just the two critters. We were happiest I guess when the house had more feet zooming around.

I waited for my wife to kick the new pet notion into gear. I waited because if it didn't pan out I wanted to not be the one who had suggested it ........ Nah, I waited for her because I knew she would not be able to stand it. She lasted longer than I thought she would.

Once the idea of a new cat had settled in, she began the online search for one from the available kitties at the NH humane Society where my daughter is the Projects and Program Manager. 

She found a female cat she thought might be good. Named "Squiggle", she was two years old and all black. Black cats don't get adopted as fast as other cats. 

So. we get her home and my wife has come up with a detailed plan to ease Squiggle into our small community. We'll keep her isolated for a time and then slowly introduce her to Maggie and Felix, AKA Peanut, AKA, Little Asshole.This sane introduction lasted two days and then anarchy ensued. 

Maggie likes cats and apparently Squiggle is familiar with dogs and their stupid ways, so nothing more than some warning hisses that Maggie was all to happy to honor. The problems came when Felix and Squiggle had their first face to face.

We had been concerned about Felix attacking Squiggle as he is a tom and tends to strut around like he is some kind of badass. Now mind you, Felix might weigh in at an impressive 7 pounds. Squiggle might hit 5 pounds. Just to look at them, neither was intimidating in any way. 

The first day barriers were cast aside, it did not take long to hear hissing and growling of the kind we know is probably accompanied by claws out slashing. Just as I stand up, Felix comes barreling downstairs while Squiggle sits at the top of the stairs looking demur and cute. She turns around and heads back to her throne on a dresser in the bedroom. 

My little buddy is crushed now. His ego has been bruised and he knows Squiggle is the boss and he is just another asshole under her paw.

We have been through this kind of realignment several times in our past. Sadly Felix, AKA Peanut, AKA, Little Asshole has not. It's been 3 days now and he is still sulking.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .................................................

_____________________________

I am getting better at finding tunes for my posts. Of course, now that I have begun bragging, my next choice will hide for hours. ......... Anyway, today's tune is "Bohemian Catsody". Not sure who arranged it. Enjoy!


Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Twisted Happy Thanksgiving

Everyone looked up when Gramps limped in dragging a large bundle wrapped in black plastic. He dragged it over near the stove, dropped the rope and turned towards the expectant faces focused on him.

“Everyone; this year we feast. ……. Ma, I was able to get through the fence. Got a fat kill this year.”

GranMa got right to work. Signaling her youngest to help her, the two of them lifted the bundle and placed it on the picnic table that now served this clan as their table for every purpose.

“Well Jeb, wouldn’t take much to do better ‘n last year. That pitiful kill didn’t amount to shit once the bones had been picked out. …. Barely a decent bite for each of us.

She pulled a huge knife from the space between table planks and began cutting away the plastic.

Gramps scowled at GranMa and stumbled towards his chair. Settling in with a series of grunts and groans, he reached for his pipe.

“Woman, you know last year weren’t my fault, I was laid up. You sent little Jackie out. He did fine considerin you wouldn’t even give him a knife.”

“Fool kid woulda lost it and we only have three left. He did alright I guess. But that squirrel was kinda scrawny.”

Jackie looked up at Grandma with vacant eyes.

“Yeah Grandma, I kilt that squirrel with a rock…knocked him right out of that tree.”

GranMa did not hear Jackie. She was intent on unwrapping the fat kill Gramps was bragging about. She had cut through the line and wrap. She gasped as she peeled back the plastic. Stepping back quickly she brought her hand to her mouth.

“What’s the matter GranMa? What did Gramps bring us for Thanksgiving?”

GranMa shifted her eyes toward Gramps.

“You say you got through the fence? What fence? Not the one around the Big House?”

Gramps had by this time found his tobacco, stuffed it in his pipe and was creating quite a cloud around himself.

Yep. That would be the fence I got through alright. He pointed his pipe at the creature spread out on the picnic table.

He walked into me. How could I resist? Look at him with those fat legs. You cook him up right and we eat fine for the next coupla weeks, okay?

GranMa looked back at the critter she was supposed to cook and then back at Gramps.

“You know we could be in for it if they come lookin.”

“They won’t. You know that.”

GranMa looked at Gramps hard, squinted and pointed a crooked finger at him.

“How do you know old man? ,,,,,,, No one’s ever killed one of their kids.”
______________________________

Happy Turkey Day Everyone! Not sure where this story came from ...... oh yeah. Recently on a TV series called "White Chapel", one of the sleazy characters had cooked a proboscis monkey. Obviously the image and scene stuck with me. Couldn't resist. 

Music today is a nice little ditty by Psychostick/Slipknot - " Give Thanks or Die ". Not your usual music of Thanksgiving. But it is somehow appropriate given the story above.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Bridge

Mark stepped out of Home Room into the noise and confusion of a school hallway between classes. He did not hesitate. He now knew where his first class was. He turned right and merged with the kids heading deeper into John Hanson Junior High's labyrinth of tight hallways connecting cramped classrooms. The old school was busting at the seams lately what with all the new residential construction going on in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Jimmy G and his crew stopped Mark near the boys bathroom next to the gym. Jimmy puffed up his chest and shoved Mark hard. His entourage of Elvis haired bad ass wannabe's tightened their circle around Mark. Their Ban-Lon shirts were seriously tucked into thin belted sharply creased Big Mac work pants that almost, but not quite, touched their perfect high top black Chuck Taylor sneakers. They were the local equivalent of ultra cool. They ruled the halls at John Hansen

"Jack here says you called me a punk. .... Right Jack?"

The cro-magnon buddy towering over Jimmy mumbled, "Uh, that's right Jimmy. He said you were a punk ass greaser."

Jimmy squinted at Mark and smiled. "So, what do you say asshole? Did you call me a punk?"

Mark had had his share of these new kid in school encounters over the last 7 or 8 years. He sighed and looked down at this scrawny excuse of a school yard bully. He could almost write the script for the next day or two in his life. 

Punk gets in the new kid's face and challenges him. New kid considers what to do. Does the punk have back up? If so, it won't matter if the punk is bad ass or not. His crew will have their way. Mark decided to speed the process along.The encounter was going to happen regardless. Sooner was better than later.

"Shit Jimmy, I guess I must have called you a punk ass greaser, if that is what Jack here said."

Jimmy's smile faded and his eyes opened up some. He had not counted on this answer. For a moment he was stuck for something to say.

Mark didn't miss this opportunity to press harder. "So what do we do now Jimmy? Get into a fight? And if so, where? I am the new kid. I don' know shit."

Jimmy hesitated. This moment of intimidation had not gone down as planned. He stepped back and poked a puny finger at Mark. "The Bridge - right after school. Your ass is mine."

Jimmy G and his small band of cronies shuffled away, occasionally turning and throwing dangerous glares in Mark's direction. Mark shrugged and headed to class.

"The Bridge" was found on the 1000 yard path that ran through a small strip of woods separating John Hansen Junior High from Oxon Hill High. It spanned Carey Branch, a small creek that spilled into the Potomac River a couple of miles away near Indian Head. It was also a gathering spot for the derelicts who attended both schools. They would gather, smoke cigarettes, sometimes drink, hassle the girls walking through and pick on whatever boy they felt needed it that day. It was often an unpleasant gauntlet for any student outside their clique.

Mark was one such student who found it unpleasant. But he used the path because otherwise walking home the long way would add 15 minutes to his journey. So far, all he had suffered while passing the bridge were some dirty looks, some smirks and a few "Hey New Kid, you suck dicks". Mark also used the bridge because he had learned that to walk in fear would only make his time here in Oxon Hill more difficult. Experience taught him that standing up and taking what came was the fastest way for any intimidation or bullying to stop. It had been his experience bullies did not long pick on people who resisted. Today was to be the day the bullies decided to mess with him. Mark was actually surprised it had taken them so long to tag him for attention. The new school year was in its 3rd week.

Mark was not immune to fear. He was anxious and uptight as he walked through the ball fields to the path that led to the bridge. His palms began to sweat the closer he came to Bridge. He accepted he might take a beating of some kind and was determined to get  it over with. His only problem was how to respond to Jimmy G's assaults. Jimmy was a true runt. Not a dwarf maybe. But if he didn't grow anymore, he would become one. Mark in all his five foot-eight grandeur, towered over jimmy G by 12" at least.

Still undecided about what to do as he came up to the Bridge, he needn't have worried. The decision was made for him. Jimmy broke out of the gaggle of Greasers standing around smoking cigarettes. Jimmy came fast, only giving Mark a second to set his feet. He smacked Mark in the mouth. The appropriate "Whoa's" and "You get him Jimmy" comments rose from the gaggle as they began to encircle the pair.

Jimmy had miscalculated. His blow barely moved Mark's face. Mark looked down at Jimmy. Instead of hitting him, he shoved Jimmy hard enough to knock him off his feet. The Gaggle went quiet and their circle tightened.

"I don't want to fight Jimmy. Fighting is stupid."

Jimmy stood up. "So you are calling me stupid, huh punk?"

Mark looked around. He noticed some bigger kids wearing the same Ban Lon shirt, Big Mac pants outfits hovering over the inner ring of Jimmy's friends. He assumed they were early departing high school kids who also used the Bridge as a go to hangout. They looked mean and ready to tear Mark apart. One of them shouldered his way through the younger punks and faced Mark.

"Jimmy's my brother asshole. He's a pain in my ass, but I won't let anyone hurt him." He dropped his head to Mark's level. "Got it  asshole?"

Mark did not respond. He knew that with all his previous experience as the "New Kid", this one was turning out to be nothing like he envisioned. For the first time, he was scared; really scared. There were a lot of kids sporting hair grease and Chuck Taylors here. They looked ready to live up to their reputations.

Jimmy's big brother moved in closer and again dropped his head close to Mark's ear.

"Look," he whispered, "let Jimmy rough you up some. You rough him up some. Nobody gets hurt after. Okay?"

Mark nodded his head, unsure that Jimmy's brother had that kind of pull over his salivating buddies.

Jimmy was wiping his hands on the dirty rear pockets of his previously perfect Big Mac pants. He once again charged Mark and in a flurry of fist flinging, managed to bloody Mark's nose. Jimmy retreated and grinned. "Whataya think now asshole? You gonna call me a punk again?"

Mark grinned also. The intimidating build up to this fight turning out to be such a minor altercation made him sigh with relief inside while outside he stood tall and did not cower.  "No Jimmy, I won't ever call you a punk again. ...... Now are we done?"

Mark started to walk through the crowd of Blocks. Someone blindsided him with a fist to his ear, knocking him down. Mark jumped up and spun around to see who had thrown the punch. Too many impassive faces, no one looked guilty; everyone looked guilty. Mark stood there a moment glaring at all of them and slowly backed the rest of the way out of the ring.

Life got easier for Mark after that. He had stood his ground and that had gotten him some respect. But what really turned it for Mark was when he tried out for the basketball team and was selected to play. The blocks didn't mess with the jocks as a rule. 

During B-Ball season, Mark was offered a membership of sorts in their crew. The only thing was he had to change clothes. They were not tolerant of the button down collar, wee-juns with tassles look. Mark bought a few Ban-Lon shirts and was already using Chuck Taylors, but he drew the line at wearing Big Macs. He always thought the huge pants legs looked stupid with spindly kid legs sticking out of them.

_____________________

This fight did happen and I tried to describe it as accurately as I could. All the rest was created to try and make what was but one of a million stories of bullies a little more interesting. The next year when we moved back to Bethesda, I had to deal with two more bullies, one of whom really hurt me. The other, well, he never messed with me again. But that is yet another story to tell.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .........................................

_______________________________

For today musical interlude, I picked "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam. I did not know it, but they wrote this tune in response to an incident at a school I think in 1991. A bullied student stood in front of his class and shot himself in the head. 

Yes, no encounter with bullying in my experience made me feel this desperate. And no, I don't think I could know or comment on how desperate someone can become after incessant bullying. I do know and have experienced bullying in my life. I am guessing most of us have. Yet it still happens.

Never underestimate the capacity of Humans to be complete assholes.

Started this post 12 years ago.