Don’t cry, kitten
if you can’t catch your tail–
I run in circles too
Don’t cry, kitten
if you can’t catch your tail–
I run in circles too
Joe ran a two-man auto repair shop.
It was retro-Americana all the way,
with 1950’s style pin-up girls sporting
dimples and curves on the calendars
and a wall sign that proclaimed: “Helen
Waite is our Credit Manager. If you
want credit, go to Hel en Waite.”
But if you were a decent sort, and
you needed it badly enough, Joe
would let you pay next payday, if
you at least had the collateral of a
hearty handshake. And if he figured
you were a really good guy or gal,
he or his fellow mechanic Nick
would pour you shot when your
car was done, and it was always done
right. At 56, Joe worker harder and
better than any two corporate mechanics
half his age. One night, over shots
strong enough to dissolve alien rust, Joe
told me about how he lowered his
cholesterol, but the next day I brought
him a bottle of low dose aspirin, the
kind with the heart on the bottle, just
in case. He laughed and said thanks.
Then several days later, I heard that
he’d died in his sleep after putting in
a full day, right alongside his mechanic,
like he always did. And I have to see it
as one more sign, that the America
I knew is just about dead. And if you
think a big corporate auto dealer’s
service station is an improvement
over places like Joe’s, or if you
believe a country can be great
without guys like him, then I don’t
have much to say to you–except
maybe “Go to Hel en Waite.”
Nietzsche once wrote that man is the unhappy animal. I say that man is the delusional animal. It’s horribly simple: during evolution we developed consciousness, and this heightened awareness told our ancestors that one day they would die. It also told us them lots of other things they wished were not true. (For a catalog of some of those harsh truths, listen to any Muddy Water’s CD). Today most people still believe in either a “just God” or some kind of cosmic karma; in other words, most still think that in the end the good guys will win and the really bad guys will go to hell. I’m not saying that both of those concepts are definitely delusions, but they just might be.
Even to the jaded and cynical among us, it was a shock to see OJ cleared of murder late in the 20th Century, despite the avalanche of evidence presented against him at his trial. We’d always harbored the suspicion, or for some of us, the near-certainty, that justice in this universe is as random as everything else seems to be. And of course, if justice is faithless or fickle, it’s not really justice. But here was the hard evidence that our belief in justice is a delusion: a jury, in the supposedly best criminal just-us system in the world, set OJ free, while the friends and family of his victims. along with most of us, looked on with horror.
As a kid I had a poster of OJ on my wall. I had nothing against him. But it seemed to me–and any other sane adult–that beyond a shadow of a doubt, he had committed double murder–not against some evil beings or cartoon villains, but against a woman who’d married him and her innocent young friend. To see OJ smiling, his supporters dancing and cheering in the streets, the hot blondes who continued to date him after his release, etc., was just more frosting on that cancerous cake. To know in the back of your mind that life is wildly unfair is one thing; to see proof on the magic TV that there is no justice, even for the most wicked, is another.
Well, you could argue that OJ did end up receiving some justice, even if it was for a ludicrous, Three Stooges-style robbery. And for a time there it seemed that at least OJ might rot and die in his luxury prison. It wouldn’t have been as satisfying as seeing him crushed to death and then tossed into a bog or fed to wild pigs, but at least it would have given the friends and family of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman some sense of inner peace to know that he’s off the streets. And it would have left the rest of us some room to hope that justice is real after all.
But instead, now we’ll have to watch as OJ dates hot blondes, smiles for the camera, makes money being a buffoon, etc. And we’ll at some point have to look at the pained expressions of at least some of the friends and family of Ron and Nicole, whose only crime was to be born in a world like this.
sounds extreme and distasteful too
but you didn’t know the old man.
He had an uncanny knack for deceiving
himself a he pursued his own
comfort and pleasure
to the detriment of every
living being he came into
contact with, especially those
he spawned himself, like when
he’d fart aloud proudly in his
old Nash Rambler, but then
after my little brother laughed
and did the same, “dad” reddened,
pulled the car over, and gravely
threatened to stuff Lil’ Mike into the
trunk, until his tiny lips quivered and
he bawled his eyes out and threw up
all over himself, while I sat stoner-faced
and wondered why guys like dad
were ever born and allowed to breed.
Then I became an atheist. But years later,
now an adult, I guilted myself into visiting
dad in his Taj Mahal McMansion off the lake.
We’d sit and he’d talk about politics and religion,
then to bolster his beliefs, he’d always lift a yellow
book up to my face and exhort me to read about the
healing miracles performed by the Virgin Mary at
Fatima or Majigoria, I can’t remember which,
while his latest drug-addled hooker scampered
past us and out the front door, and my now-crippled
brother sat in a wheelchair in a tiny apartment
with my mother. So on one such occasion, I asked
“dad” why he didn’t sell some of his gold coins
or Pre-Colombian vases and take Mike to Majigoria
or Fatima for a healing, and then I’d believe.
Dad blinked, turned purple, then after a long pause,
and with a straight face, he said that Mike was only
faking and could really walk but simply sat in a
wheelchair or crawled on his hands and knees
because he was lazy and liked to be waited on
by mom. But when I mentioned the accident, the
hospital, doctors, and disability check, dad simply
got up and stomped back to his bedroom.
And I sat there wondering why it’s not legal
to kill a creature like him. But sadly, it was already
the age of DNA evidence and CSI, so I quietly decided
that since it seemed to me that neither God nor Karma
could really exist, I’d have to piss on “dad’s” grave
one day, and if somehow the gassy ghost of his former
self rose up and haunted me after, I’d just stare at it
and state with a straight face that what I’d just sprayed
on his grave wasn’t piss at all–just lemonade.
After writing my novel, I wanted to show it to people I admire–especially successful literary writers whose works have given me hope and strength. The problem was that THOSE writers are dead.
Charles Bukowski, the bar brawler who had the courage to tell the truth AND the compassion to stick up for animals, died in 94. Not only did he reveal the true face of humanity, but he rescued cats and wrote some powerful poems about them.
Jack Kerouac, granddaddy of the Beats, whose poetic prose and haiku helped open Western minds to animal-friendly Buddhism, drank himself to death in ’69. Not even fame and success could put him at peace with samsaric existence. (In BIG SUR, he laments even the deaths of a beaver and a mouse.)
I could name others. But all of the writers whom I deem GREAT had two things going for them: honesty and compassion…and not necessarily in that order. From Issa, the Japanese haiku master, who recognized all life forms as fellow travelers, to the aforementioned Charles Bukowski, they pulled no punches; yet they all grieved, each in his or her own way, over the suffering of sentient beings.
Of course, to be fair, there ARE writers today who write like it is and who have compassion for animals, and I know a few of them. But they, like me, languish in obscurity–at least the ones I’m aware of. We read and support each other, but really, there’s not a lot we can do to further each other’s writing careers.
Which is why I was happy to read a tweet from a Charles Bukowski fan, which stated, more or less, that fans of CB will like the novels of Sam Pink. So soon I was reading his novel RONTEL. It began well enough, but then, only 9% into the Kindle ebook, came the following:
“In the square of dirt around the tree, a dead cat lay on its side. The carcass was beat the fuck up…First thing I thought was that someone had “peeled out” on top of it…That seemed funny to me–someone “peeling out” on a dead cat. ”
Now I don’t know Sam Pink. He might be an OK guy. He may even have a cat (or more) of his own and be good to him or her. But after reading those lines lines, I would have thrown the book down, but of course that would have ended my Kindle. I just stopped reading him.
As someone who has rescued cats and is always at war, in one way or another, with the creatures called “human beings” who are unnecessarily cruel towards animals, I can’t tolerate that kind of writing. And I knew at once that this is just another overblown author who some publisher was moronic enough to publish, and who some reader is ignorant enough to compare favorably to the late, great Charles Bukowski.
So I guess I’ll just go back to my dead authors…
Father Smith strode into our fifth-grade
classroom, white hair and beard, a lean
Santa Claus without the sack of toys.
He ordered us to stand. I stood with the rest.
Boys in white shirts, black pants, ties.
Girls in plaid skirts.
“EVERYONE LOOK AT TWO OTHER
STUDENTS IN THIS CLASS!” boomed
We did. But instead of glancing at two students,
I looked at Whitney twice. Once at each of her
shapely, brown thighs–at least as much as her
skirt couldn’t hide.
“ONE OF THE STUDENTS YOU JUST
LOOKED AT IS GOING TO HELL!”
yelled Father Smith. “Because the BIBLE says
WIDE is the gate and BROAD is the road that
leads to DESTRUCTION!”
He shot us all hard stares, then went on:
“BUT IF YOU HELP EACH OTHER stay on
the NARROW ROAD which leads to heaven,
you might SAVE ONE OF THE STUDENTS
you just looked upon.”
For years after, Father Smith’s words echoed in
my head, but every time Whitney caught trouble,
I failed to even try to set her back on the straight
and narrow. I guess I just couldn’t imagine any
heaven without both of those shapely, brown thighs
wrapped around my head without a halo.