The Avocadoes Of Indifference

Bear with me. That was the title of a short play in three acts, meant to be performed during the 55-minute duration of a class period, which I cranked out in the waning days of my senior year in high school — Yorktown High, if anyone cares, in Arlington, Virginia, 1971. I was sixteen.

The plot barely returns to me. There were stock college characters like the chubby guy who drinks a lot. There was an ill-starred romance involving a couple who had mistakenly used Crest instead of contraceptive jelly with a diaphragm and so she was knocked up and he was panicky and they were trying to strategize (it was a couple years before Roe v. Wade), and she had a pet parakeet named Mr. Bumby, who was represented by a covered cage and the cast’s reactions to an imaginary escaped bird who shat on them at the conclusion of the second act, and there was campus activism planned in the third.

At the moment that the war protest became a fracas our heroes retreated from the clash point, but for whatever reason, because I was being snarky and socially conscious all at once, one of our posse who was tall and buff but couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag entered in fatigues wearing a legacy Army helmet from some past generation of his family and sporting a toy rifle, and voices off shouted “Bang” as virtually every cast member in the production fell to the ground, shot, by the peacekeeping National Guard. Because Kent State, if you remember?

I wasn’t even that much of a firebrand. I had never stood on a protest line. (That happened later, with the Hyde Amendment,) I just knew at the rough age of consent in my state that something was fucked, very fucked, about a point in history where kids saying we don’t want to die don’t send us to die don’t send our friends to die was greeted with the killing breath of National Guard rifles.

A few years later a book was published with the title “Don’t Shoot — We Are Your Children!” The New York Times uttered a rather patronizing review, commenting on the extremism of Jerry Rubin and the drug habits of some of the young people profiled. Bleh.

Don’t shoot.

Here we are in 2018 and the children are both shooting and being shot. But also the adults. Both ends. It just seems to take the young uns, who’ve grown up doing active shooter drills, to stand up and say hey, it stops here, and also we can now VOTE.

Pushback is predictable. The National Review scorned one of the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting for “inserting himself” into the firearms debate, as if he had a fucking choice.

Don’t shoot, we are your children.

Don’t shoot, we are you and you are we.

America needs to come to the end of its love affair with the thing that goes bang. A hundred Indians bite the dust, right? Well it’s 2018 and we’re all out of Indians, who didn’t ask for it in the first place, and it’s us. It’s some asshole with a grievance and access to a killing machine and it’s us. I think twice about going to movies. It needs to stop.

Bye to the avocadoes of indifference. Welcome anyone who seriously, earnestly gives a shit. I’ve gone all political here. I can’t help it. I’m past clever belles lettres and cat stories, though there will be more of those; I just can’t deal blithely with my nation any more.

Do what you can, American readers, to support the people marching on March 24.



Rhymes With Orange (II)

My father — he’s been dead ten years and more now, and for most of the twenty-seven before that he was swanning around saying “I have no daughter” when people asked — complicated story — well, families suck, but he was a man who could tell a story, which redeems a lot. He played the French Horn in The United States Army Band, or TUSAB, an acronym which was stenciled on everything in sight at the Fort Myer band auditorium, puzzling me in my childhood when I was often dragged along on quick missions on base. Everything on base was either dingy light yellow, battleship grey, or brown, wavy linoleum. It’s much spiffier now, but these were the days of clapboard “temporary” buildings” that had been temping along since the end of the war.

I guess you could call my father a veteran. He never saw even the back end of a battlefield, having bad eyes and flat feet, the dead last of cohorts to be deployed, and in his abortive memoir of the war years, he described his ohmigodIdontwanttogetmyassshotoff moment of truth when he sent home for his horn to try out for the camp band. He had observed that troops shipped in and troops shipped out, but the band stayed. It worked. And he became a military bandsman for life, playing the last honors for countless veterans laid to rest in Arlington, playing for President Kennedy’s funeral while I huddled at home with a bad flu, tearfully watching everything on a tiny black and white screen. He gave his respect where it was deserved. Where it was not, he found… ways of expressing himself.

He got moved around to two more bases before the war ended — the last one in Georgia, commanded by a generally despised officer named Braun who had, the rumor went, been sent back from the European theater for vague “inhumane” behavior. According to my dad, he was a stuck up little martinet, fond of Draconian penalties, who relished little more than the regularly performed base “pass in review” — when the infantry had to march in formation past the reviewing stand, saluting as they went, metronomed into line by the base band playing a march as they, too, strode by. Base personnel speculated that a little Nazi had rubbed off on him.

There were tuba players in the band, of course, and they were friends with my father; there is a freemasonry among all musicians but a distinct one among brass players, who seem to share a crude, mutinous sense of humor. I think it is because of the farting noises that you invariably make while trying to learn the right way of getting a sound out of a brass instrument. (Note for what it is worth: I learned to play the oboe.) If you don’t have the inner eleven-year-old that remains capable of laughing hysterically at this kind of noise all your life, you may not be a brass section candidate.

Somewhere along the line, someone coined a cantrip on the notes so-so-so-so-la-ti-do-re-mi, mi, re, do! with the potted German everybody-talk lyric: “Was ist die Farbe, dem Pferdenscheiss? Braun, braun, braun!” [What’s the color of horse-shit? Brown, brown, brown!] It went around the base rapidly, as such things do in time of war when people need to blow off steam and frustration at being dragged off the farm or out of the family store, or just ward off fear of deployment.

Thereafter, every time the band passed in front of Colonel Braun on the reviewing stand, no matter what march was being played, the tuba section on a high sign would play that melody. History does not record whether the CO ever noticed, for all anyone knows he was tone deaf, but people felt better.

I understand the current denizen of the Oval wants a big ass military parade across Memorial Bridge, with tanks and things — never mind that it’s ready to fall into the Potomac — and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

I suppose you don’t really need a rhyme for orange. Or oh-rang-eh as it would be in German. Just a suitably disgusting substance. Any ideas? Slime mold? Metamucil? I’m almost ready to call up my dad on the Ouija board.

Kissing Your Ass Goodbye

When I was a gradeschooler — a little precocious, so that I turned eight in the fourth grade — they handed out babycrap-brown pamphlets in school engrossed with the logo of the Civil Defense department. The illustrations, creepily like the happy family line drawings in some magazine ads for condiments or appliances, depicted a white suburban nuclear family digging a fallout shelter, stocking it with supplies, assembling a chemical toilet, and all the other activities that would supposedly help people survive a nuclear attack. There was no allusion to what one would experience once it was possible to come out of the fallout shelter, or what people in congested city centers with tall buildings and no subways were supposed to do.

In class, we were instructed in the duck and cover. You were to get down under your desk, if the air raid siren alerted to an imminent strike, hunker with your head between your knees, and remain there until an all clear if one came; after a while some of us became limber enough to kiss our asses goodbye, had we been introduced to that concept.

Lacking the phrase, however, I kind of knew that was the likely outcome. I have always lived in the suburbs of Washington, DC, a pleasant hour’s walk from the White House (at least for a serious walker), and the time a squirrel committed actinic seppuku on the transformer at the end of my family’s driveway, flooding my bedroom with noise and flash, I was prone on the floor before I could think: I always expected the first strike to be right here. The day we were instructed to time our walks home so that teachers would know whether to retain us in the school building or send us home to die with our families, I went full eyeroll and caught the usual ride that was a daily arrangement at the end of parental errands. It pissed off the teacher. Tough.

So here we are. Today in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer writes, somewhat chidingly, that Americans are “shrugging towards Doomsday,” aware that nuclear war is more likely than it’s been in decades but simply going on with their lives as if everything were normal. I don’t know how to respond to his tone; what, exactly, are we supposed to be doing? Spilling into the streets to protest? Not a bad idea, only thousands of people are doing that already, not, granted, solely or even primarily about nuclear war but certainly about xenophobia, toxic nationalism and ugly-Americanism. Working to elect a Congress that will put curbs on a puerile President who tweets about the size of his button? Check, but the election isn’t for ten more months. I don’t know what we can do about Korea’s leadership from where we stand, but it’s sobering to think everything could be shot to hell essentially because of two men with power complexes and narcissistic indifference to the entire rest of the world. Whatever, I refuse to dig a hole in my back yard and stockpile supplies in the idiotic delusion that anyone would want to survive a nuclear strike, aside from which, if there were more than a few hits, the whole world would succumb to nuclear winter anyway.

Arguably, more people ought to be thinking about the horror implicit in the state of the world generally and America’s current leadership specifically, and considerably less about the Kardashians, or Tide Pods. I just don’t know whether outcry would even be heard over the uproar that already is the 24-hour news cycle. Though our news outlets could help. If CNN can schedule talking heads for long quarter-hours about Rand Paul getting the shit kicked out of him or the latest gossamer scrap of rumor floating up from the Mueller investigation, they could spend some time on what a nuclear conflict could mean. The media have woken people up before. Maybe I’m a little unusual and other people aren’t thinking: what if I do survive, what then? Will my partner be at work or will we have a chance to say goodbye? Should I try to find a suicide pill so I won’t have to see what the world is likely to become? Maybe other people didn’t read the memoirs of the people who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I did, when I was ten, and I didn’t get an honest night’s sleep for a year.

But if, on a day to day basis, anyone has a better idea of what a private citizen can do, other than going to the gym and doing the wash and reading the best books and taking care of our pets, oh, and trying to stay limber enough to kiss our asses goodbye, please throw it out there.



Ding Dong

You’re welcome.


Bath Bombs

I dreamed I was giving a massage to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There was nothing salacious about this. Bodywork is my skill, my calling, my career. I fix stressed, injured people. Probably it was easy for my dreaming mind to imagine that Mr. Mueller could use some destressing. The odd thing was that I was using the dining room table that lived in the house(s) I grew up in, one that was made for the family by a Maine artisan related to a family friend, out of solid oak, not a nail or screw in it, all wooden pegged with a longitudinal strut that I used to sneakily rest my feet on. No clothing was off. I kept getting interrupted between this extremity and that, so that when people started arriving expecting to be served some sort of repast on that table I hadn’t done Mr. Mueller’s feet yet. I held out. Feet are important.

One of the chattering, irritating, girly arrivals had come with a supply of “Bath Bombs,” I’ve read of the things, blobs of bath salts or bubble stuff with usually obnoxious aromas. These, though differently colored and composed, were all pecan-scented.

My Southern relatives, whom I repudiate to the extent that I would carve their DNA out of myself with a blunt knife if it were possible and survivable, owned many pecan orchards. They would probably vote for Roy “Lolitaphile” Moore if they were still living. Don’t know about subsequent generations. I cut them off.

There’s just something wrong about dreaming politics. I’m glad the next segment of the dream involved an old client of mine coming into possession of a hot pink convertible.




No Thanks

From today’s Washington Post “The Post Recommends”:
A 48-year-old woman and 28-year-old man reportedly met on a flight from Los Angeles to Detroit and engaged in a sex act Oct. 30.
Nov 1

I Thought It Was Just A Song

Pfizer denies fumes from Viagra factory are arousing town’s males

Updated 12:40 pm, Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Villagers of Ringaskiddy, County Cork, Ireland, say air pollution from a factory that produces the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra are affecting the menfolk.

“One whiff and you’re stiff,” local bartender Debbie O’Grady told the Sunday Times.

If it’s not the fumes emanating from Pfizer’s plant, then it’s the water that is getting the men’s Irish up, some believe.

“I think that Viagra must have got into the water supply,” Fiona Toomey, 37, told the paper. Toomey used to work at the Pfizer factory.

“I’m convinced that’s what happened at the very beginning before they were so closely regulated,” she said.

It’s not only human males who are aroused. Toomey says that dogs “walk around in a state of sexual excitement.”

Life imitates art.