Sunday, September 25, 2016
It was the usual suspects. We were at Nigel's non-descript abode in East Dallas, a place once hidden away but now on the edge of the wave of gentrification spreading from downtown. Matt was there. He's in high cotton as long as the construction boom lasts. And, well, I say usual suspects, but old man Clint was there too in a very rare appearance. I had no high hopes for this evening knowing from long experience what happens when you do something because you have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.
Nigel was part of a touring band, Jeckyl, way back in the day. He lives off a steady drip of income that affords him this very modest house. I envy him, of course, because he's out of the game that tortures me each and every day. Also, Nigel had a life at one time and his stories are great if bittersweet memories of a life gone by. He's sort of our elder statesman.
"It was a riot! Harley would start booing the waiter as he's giving us the heave-ho over Darnell. If only we had video in them days."
"I just can't believe racism was so strong even into the 70's. Can't imagine getting thrown out over a black guy eating with you."
"Listen, mate, we played some backwater towns, we did. Anything for a gig. Those Southern states of yours are mighty dark."
"But didn't the waiter get all pissed off and shit?"
"Oh, he's trying to ignore Harley but failing, then Henson gets up and calls the waiter a nigger-lover to confuse him even further! He runs off crying to the owner!"
"Gawd, that's too funny. I'd like to think I'd have the nerve to do stuff like that."
"Oh, back in those days we thought nothing of it. When you're in a band it's you against the world."
"And didn't Harley have some really funny English name?"
"Harwell Piggins, it was."
"Yes! That's right. No wonder he changed it to Harley Hogg."
"Shame it had to end. A band loses its soul then you're scattered to the wind."
"At least you had a soul for a while. What would you do if you had a soul, Matt?"
Matt's only claim to fame was Jennifer, a girl who lived with him for a while, putting him in heaven many years ago. He screwed it up, naturally, but we still hear of her like a broken record. I wondered if he'd be offended by my remark. He wasn't.
"Be a carpenter."
"You're already a fucking carpenter!"
"That's you seein' from the outside. I just don't...do anything."
"That makes no sense. They pay you to do nothing?"
"They pay me to be nothing. I've seen where the foreman misses somethin' and it's gonna bite him on the ass later. But I don't say nothin'."
"Why the hell not?" That sort of thing just drives me nuts.
"Not my job. I don't want them movin' me up in the world. I'm not at the bottom cuz I been doin' this too long but I don't want no responsibility neither."
"So you just let bad shit happen? Seems like a waste."
Matt took another swill at his beer while answering me in a completely detached manner. To me, it's as if I just told him his house is on fire and all he had to say was "yup"! Back to Nigel.
"Hey, Nigel, I always wondered how a band breaks up. I've seen some stay together forever."
"Been my experience a band is always on the verge of breaking up. Looks cohesive on the outside but inside it's easy to drift apart and start doing your own thing."
"That what happened to you?"
"We just got stuck. And bored. Things can't stay the same. It's a tad unseemly, you know, when you're 62 and you still want to boink seventeen year old girls."
Well, that put a new perspective on things. Clint, who's more a living fossil than anything else, hadn't spoken a word. He was just listening and nursing a drink. We all knew why - but I had to bait him, especially considering the alternatives.
"What ya thinking about over there, Clint?"
"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got - and all he's ever gonna have."
He'd said that (one million times) before but I was a risk taker that night.
"Yeah, we've heard that before. That's all you ever say! Don't you have any more to say than that??"
Clint's eyes came out of his drink to bore into me. Oh, fuck.
"It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. The world turns cold and grey, you can't find the sun."
I'm kicking myself but this is the furthest he'd gone and we sat mesmerized, both curious and terrified what he might say next. His eyes started hitting each person's in the room.
"You think you're on another planet. You don't feel connected to the flowers or the grass. You're afraid to. Walk by a place you've walked by a thousand times before and you see it with stranger's eyes, like it's your first time upon it. Nobody wants to know your name, not even you. You think weird things, like gravity's going to stop and you'll float into space and be gone forever. Happens every time. For a while there, you think your mind is never coming back."
Clint took a long sip at his whiskey. Whatever he'd done - and no one dared ask directly - he'd not made it out alive. He was marking time in his own private hell. But weren't we all?
"What about you, Harry? Where's your soul?"
Fucking Matt. I get under his skin somehow so he feels he has to fuck with me.
"Oh, I eBay'd it. Didn't sell. Others are better at that than I."
"So what you doin' over there? You goddam writing this down again? You're worse than one of those NSA spies!"
"But for whom would I be spying?" I coyly ask with a smile.
"You put it all on that secret blog of yours. Always trying to make everyone look like an asshole."
"Hey, if the shoe fits." Not a politically wise response, I know.
"I oughtta come over and rip those notes up!"
I didn't want that so I had to deflect with a legitimate answer.
"Well, of course, if I'd had a soul I'd of made the movie from my novel. I've dreamed it ever since I started."
"If it's so good why don't you get it published?"
"If you're so right why don't you become foreman?"
At that point I couldn't help but think: "What would the world think if they could see this sorry lot?" Four men slouching in misery, no plans or prospects, no decent woman would give us the time of day, just shooting the shit while rotting in hell.
Nigel knew the importance of an audience. "Does anyone read that blog of yours, Harry?"
I noted he wasn't asking to read it! "No, not really. Most of my hits are for hot babe pics I posted. My Bonnie and Clyde posting gets a steady stream. Every once in a great while I actually get read and someone pokes around in my archive. Only steady reader I have is some guy in New York. He's the exception that proves the rule that sooner or later I say something that makes everyone break off with me."
"Any idea who your loyal reader is?"
"Some TV producer, probably looking for ideas he can coopt for scripts. It's really hard to find original thought these days." I'd rehearsed that line long ago and this was the first time I got to use it. I impressed myself with the nonchalant manner in which I delivered it, giving it a ring of truth as if I could truly know.
"Well, mate, I always said: As long as you've got an audience of one you've got a reason to carry on."
But the verdict was in for us: 0 for 4. We are zombies walking among the living (though the living become more sparse every day), each ashamed of our present position in life, repeating our "Could of have been a contender" speeches in a Kabuki theater of pretended life.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The Fort Worth mint is the only place outside of Washington DC that prints money. What's really cool is one can take a tour of the facility and view the actual creation of the god that brings so much ugly filth to the world. It's a bit of a mind-bending experience watching a pallet holding 64 million dollars be whisked into a row of other pallets holding 64 million dollars and think of all the lives that could be affected by them. One can't but help believe there has to be a better way to live in this our universe.
When it comes to money, we are a jealous god. Seeing mounds of printed paper that rules our lives forces one to consider the insanity of our horrifying conspiracy of mutual blackmail to force each and every life to bow before this wooden calf. No unauthorized personnel behind the glass, please! Only the highest of priests may enter. If the arrangement of the ink is not just right, into the fire of purification it goes! On such trivial things do our lives hang. One must consider: what would happen to the world if we were no longer able to print money?
Susan had never taken this tour before but was fascinated. She believed in the power given money. She needed it to be true. Money was her shortcut in life, the secret weapon that separated her from fools who fail to understand the ways of the world. Susan had figured all the angles, never turning a blind eye. And though she knew better than to gamble on a human calculation, she could find no hole in her formula for success. With a payoff that allowed her to escape life's traps she felt the reward was certainly worth the risk: a get out of jail free card.
Part of the tour is a stop at the station of a woman who pieces back together money that has been ruined by fire or any other sort of damage. If more than fifty percent can be recreated then a replacement bill is issued. One of the most common misconceptions, the woman explains, is that burying money is a safe thing to do. It needs to be in an absolutely airtight container or it inevitably rots. Most of the time it's not recoverable. Then the thud of a fainting body was heard.
Susan only gave a knowing smirk anytime a friend chastised her for letting her life slip away. She didn't love her husband. She didn't pursue a career. Her life was going nowhere. "There's always tomorrow," she'd coyly reply. When asked, "But what about today?" she'd simply shrug and say that today can go rot. She was smarter than the rest having rigged the game in her favor. Let the delusional worry about today.
"Money unearned is twice as sweet as money earned." Susan knew that earning a living is a sucker's game, chains by another name. She saw how the slaves live in fear, are used and thrown away. Despite evildoers claims that hard work and honesty are rewarded there's no shortage of corrupt millionaires walking around. The further she dug for the truth the more it confirmed her suspicion of the veracity of Napoleon's quote: "The surest way to remain poor is to be an honest man." But having verified this truth, to whom could she plead her case for change?
So the world could go fuck itself as she made other plans. As the currency of life slipped through her fingers, Susan laughed. One day she'd take her revenge on the raw deal of this wicked world. Unhappy marriage, wasted days, escaping into carnal pleasures - who cares? Life is but a joke. Until, of course, she found herself looking up at curious bystanders from the floor of the Fort Worth Mint. That's when the final truth hit her: her god was of no value, after all, those viciously guarded pallets down below have no end game of life.
Susan staggered to her feet, hoping the news of her illusion to be nothing more than bad dreams. She stayed in a self-imposed stupor on the ride home, barely talking, and wanting nothing to do with anyone. It was the last time she was seen alive.
The explanation lay in the hole in the far corner of the backyard where the hundreds of thousands of dollars she'd siphoned off from her marriage over the years lay in a rotting heap of future compost. Her well-planned escape had worked to perfection outside of this unforeseen fatal flaw. Money on top always looked fine but it hid the decay underneath. What little good she found was not even close to being enough to sustain her.
Susan was buried having never started her life. She'd seemed the life of the party carousing around in bars; always playing the joker. As she lived in an ever deepening state of unrealized deception, she mocked those she saw living useless and deceived lives. To many she was a hero - even to herself! But like the song says: Every form of refuge has its price. Dishonesty never escapes death. As one of her bewildered friends asked, "Why did she bury her treasure?"
Sunday, September 18, 2016
It was not the best of times it was the worst of times
when the deeds of men were bloody and women lay willingly butchered in the fields
leaving only children to protect the truth
where the human heart became a sieve of blood
as angels in Heaven scream for justice for those who murder in the name of Love
as masses bring offerings to gods of war in the name of holy sacrifice to unholy endeavors
while craven commercials cajole kindness for cruelty to crush the crawling concerns of a caring conscience
as terror reigns down from the sky blasting human remains to preserve evil ways of those sitting in splendor never feeling pain
poisoning their minds in decadent delight dancing on their victims' graves declaring victory of death over life
crowing of a future anti-world where monsters are kept safe and the lamb deemed as their destroyer
whose righteous blood fills the streets paved with golden calves
to save them from the demons of the night who eat their hearts in unrestrained glee hiding behind shades of the day groping with closed eyes for sanctuary long vanished until finally
nothing is left to give
and all the rot and lies and treachery
is found to be for nothing
as time runs out for the last time
separating the wheat from the chaff.
"Look upon my works ye Mighty - and yawn."
And, so it is.
People ask why I don't put my hundreds of millions to better use. No one ever asks that of the greedy fucks who misuse their money. Apparently, I invite that question with my obvious lack of direction. Problem is, every direction is the wrong one.
I don't want to do anything that can possess me. And what does it mean anyway to build a grand pyramid in the sand? No amount of architecture can save me. No amount of earthly deeds amounts to squat unless it means something to the person doing it. So I think about a million things to do but never do them. I can't see the point.
After Pharaoh was humiliated by God he was desperate to find worth outside of Love. Though many of us are in various stages of denial, we all know how that story turns out. Pharaoh blinds himself with ambition grand in the eyes of men but nonexistent in the eyes of the Universe. Better to have saved a cat's life than build all the pyramids in Egypt.
I find myself in the same dilemma. I want to not face Love but have worth too. Why do a meaningless act? Why build a skyscraper that doesn't move me? Why build a Maserati museum just to kill time? Why build a designer home just to live in alone? Oh, I try to feed myself erstwhile answers to those kind of questions but the straws always blow through my hands - leaving me empty.
I'd prefer to write a poem that would stand forever over any monumental temple. Engineering a timeless poem is truly an historic event. It's also one that can't be mandated or produced by paired programming. How can I be quoted like Lewis Carroll or Shelley or any other of the great time lords of art? Someone show me the blueprint for that.
To be fair, who knows where Emily could have led me. It crosses my mind every day, especially as I consider the massive mind-mauling absurdity of my daily strife. I'm doomed to wander as Cain, never to settle after committing unforgivable unsettling deeds. Every fiber of my being cries out to build. I want a legacy. I want to be part of the eternal fountain of life that is art. Everything is else is liable to rot.
But one must do something. The least objectionable was a modern Japanese house on the last vacant lot edging White Rock Lake. It's multi-level being as it's on the side of a hill and captures the reflections of the water through the great Japanese tradition of light and shadow. Everyone raves over it as I knew they would. I (guiltily) poured all my energy into it, bending my intelligence to the task. Then someone told me that because I don't want to deal with my feelings I've become a task-oriented person.
That brought me crashing back down to earth.
I tried to enjoy the house, I really did. But it's yet another story of outward success hiding inner failure. So I'm selling, deeply ashamed I ever built it as a love substitute, as I all the while brag on its various outstanding aspects with my rehearsed passion. Hopefully I'll find a buyer who can appreciate its art while also bringing life into it. Don't bother looking if you're a goddam conservative, by the way. Real deal only.
So it's back to square one: What can I do that's real? I know many people are also flummoxed by this same question as they like to posit that nothing is real (ergo, no responsibility). I just smile when I hear that outrage knowing their inner turmoil.
Damn, this is frustrating spending my time looking for water on the moon. I know where the water is. Just don't know if I can get back to Earth.
"What would I want do that for?"
She muttered this thoughtlessly under her breath, alone, while cleaning up the dishes in her upscale San Francisco kitchen. It wasn't intentionally spoken out loud, just a natural human response to an unwanted intrusion in her mind. But this thoughtless reaction - this slip - while minor in its outward appearance did, in fact, shake both heaven and hell.
She forgot, you see, why she should lie.
The burden of it had become second nature, a lifelong habit that provided her life with motive and direction. Lying was the glue that held her world together, a necessary evil for survival. It drove her onward relentlessly as an axiom of existence on this planet: one must lie or die. On this foundation she'd built her life. If the lie ever dies, so does she.
But with her mind elsewhere, and tired from the decades of vice, this human moment slipped out as words from a child. The serpent came calling with its damaging demands to repress but why should she listen? Why skewer herself? The indoctrination of her long slide into oblivion vanished as she enjoyed a moment of peace. One cannot be both a liar and peace protestor.
But what price peace? Her marriage, her family, her approval, her house? She did not care. The path of peace would lead her to her true home. It was as if she were floating down a River of God, leaving worries behind, trusting in a belief she knew was true. The pull of it was irresistible.
The serpent recoiled in fear, having never expected this total and utter rejection. Quickly it hissed the age old arguments that worked so well before. "But you MUST lie! Do you want to be exposed as a fraud? Your parents will disown you. People will whisper behind your back. You'll be damaged goods nobody wants, alone for life. And don't kid yourself: you know you are nothing without money. There's no going back now having tasted the good life!"
The paralyzing fear of these arguments never failed. The certainty of harm was a bedrock of her life. But in her moment of peace the only certain thing was in the rightness of it, that she need have no fear. There was no bogeyman hiding in the dark waiting to destroy her. She was she and she was fine as all living things are. She used to know that! Only a fool would give that up.
"Why not be myself?"
The snake was writhing in torment, spewing prophecies of doom, desperate to keep the one and only treasure that keeps it alive: trust. The snake, of course, knew it could not be trusted. It relied solely on the currency of fear. The prophecies of doom it foretold were simply its own without that its wages of fear to peddle. That's why they sound so terrifyingly real to the listener.
But the longer she stayed on the river, the more the serpent's words turned to babble and static. My, how the world changes when you know what you're doing. She was aligned with the universe doing what she knew to be best. She had committed terrible deeds - and omitted godly deeds - in the name of "what's best" in the past. But she never truly believed it. She'd just been running away, delaying the inevitable.
Though she would still need to stay the course, having righted the ship and tasted the fruits of paradise, only one question remained for her: Why would she do anything else?
Sunday, September 11, 2016
I watched the play I'd scripted play out from my second floor apartment window in the parking lot below. The girl in her black dress slacks all ready for her first day on the job was in a panic. Her car - an old muscle car of her boyfriend's - wouldn't start. I could hear her screaming at him over her cell phone as I laughed my ass off. The confusion, the frustration, the crucifixion - welcome to my life!
Ever wonder why the Boston strangler strangled? Because he couldn't breathe. Every life is helplessly driven to make every other life just like it is. And life without the Missing Piece is hell on earth, literally.
The Missing Piece for that girl was that I sabotaged her distributor cap. 30 minutes later her boyfriend arrived, apologetic and also deeply confused. Best part was when he tried to explain the car had been sabotaged and she laid into him big time not to put off his giving her a crappy car. Yup, sucks when you tell the truth and that only makes everyone angrier. He didn't have the Missing Piece, either. So DIE, bitches!
I so enjoyed my feeling of power. Frankly, I was a bit surprised it worked. Almost invariably my plans go awry. But this time they came off without a hitch like the magical bullets guided into Kennedy, my mind clear and focused though doused with paranoia while in the act, not riddled with guilt like I usually am. Everything goes wrong when you try to do right but everything goes right when you try to do wrong. Maybe we should endeavor to become Michael Corleone, after all.
I, of course, have a Missing Piece to my life that leaves me in perpetual bewilderment and frustration. Like the boyfriend down below, explaining my truth only makes my predicament more dire. People don't want to hear it and we're willing to make life and death judgments based on just that. Now, had she trusted her boyfriend's explanation and allowed him to communicate I'd have been found out - in deed if not in name.
But she didn't! The pressure she was under was too great. I'd been inspired by hearing a chat she had by the mailboxes telling of her new job and how anxious she was about it. What better plan than to sabotage her first day at work in a distrustful world? If her employer is as mistrustful as she is of her boyfriend she'll have one hell of a miserable day - and never even know the reason why! Wow, it really is good to be God.
It was a great feeling being the Manipulator instead of the Manipulated, for once. So this is how people in power feel. You get to fuck with everybody and nobody can do anything about it. And one truly does feel the hand of God is guiding your malfeasance. Why not shamelessly lie as a politician? Why not damage your company's long term prospects to up your short term bonus? Living under the fiction we reward truth and justice is suicide in its worst form.
It's the criminals who stand at the top of heap. What an (useful) idiot I've been trying to be "honest". Of course, all the bad actors will exhort the suckers to be "good" so they can continue their bad ways unperturbed. It's plain as day now that I'm part of the con. Worship me, I am your secret god hiding behind the blinds of my window!
I rejoiced in the dejected body language of the girl she returned home. SUCKS, doesn't it? Tortured and kicked in the nuts and never to know why. Best part is she's a churchgoer too. Pray your ass off, honey! See all the goddam good it will do you! I figure in a couple of weeks she'll just about be getting her footing back underneath her. That's when another "accident" will happen with her car. And if she gets a different car, same thing. It will never end, she'll lose her job, and then one morning she'll wake up wondering if it wouldn't be better just to eat a bullet.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Monday, September 05, 2016
When X woke up in his room he saw this on his ceiling in black static letters. When he looked around, every wall said the same; the floor the same. Doors and windows were gone. Panicked and terror stricken he rushed to touch them only to find the surface of computer monitors in every direction.
He screamed but was unheard.
He had to find hope or face certain insanity. He searched for cracks or joints or a way to break through but he could discover no way out. His mind oscillated between despair and denial. His life could not have come to this. It can't be. Things like this don't happen.
But it did.
X had no basis in proof or reason his situation would get better. That his entire existence had been nothing more than a funneled internet video destroyed his belief system. That's why when he looked for something real he couldn't find it. How to break out? He sat on the floor, composing himself, hanging on the best he could, trying to stabilize, hoping things wouldn't get worse.
But they always do.
Up from the floor sprouted chickens who immediately pecked everything in sight - including X. "NO! NO! NO!" It was more than X could stand. He began to wail but nothing changed. He began to pray aloud but nothing changed. He began to enter a void - to be nothing, see nothing, hear nothing.
But the answer remained nothing.
Then the leaks started from around the edges, water inching it's way up. X was in a cube at the bottom of the sea. His mind snapped with the realization. His recourse was none. His options were none. What was left to be done?
At the monitoring station on the surface an alert went up that X's cube had disconnected. Nobody knew his whereabouts though they knew it was possible he could have sunk to the bottom and could press the self-destruct button sending shockwaves that can kill. When word was passed on to the top the message back was, "Oh well, shit happens. Can't be worried about every little life."
The operators discussed the situation.
"So what if he explodes? No one will blame us. They'll have dramatic funerals and fine speeches and weepy women saying how great we really are."
"It really is funny! We really aren't expected to help, thank You God. They must want it to happen to set things up like this. All you have to do is say there's no other way."
"There's no other way!"
They both laughed as X's name was deleted from the database of people who coount. Later, when X exploded and killed five police officers, the response was as predicted. "Oh well, shit happens. Can't be worried about every little life."
Who will be next?
Most people aren't aware of Joe Quixote, Don's younger brother. Joe shared the same romantic passions as his brother, seeking to bring truth and justice and chivalry to an empty and boring world. One day Joe came rushing into the room full of vindication.
"I knew it! I knew if I keep digging I'd find something. This will change the world!"
Don was staring at his large screen TV watching the winter Olympics. He'd retired from public discourse at this point feeling mishandled by the world.
"Just look at those skiers. All they have to do to be successful is just ski. None of the rest of the world matters. I envy that."
"But look at what I found. Come back into the world!"
"What the fuck for?"
"This proves it. My formula on derivative trading coupled with investment bank leveraging proves that greed will ultimately destroy us. Now people will have to do something!"
"They'll just call you a nut. Or a communist. Maybe an anarchist. Some sort of 'ist'."
"But they can't! Not this time. It's here in black and white. How can anyone dispute it?"
Don shook his head and smiled. "You'll see."
"But there's no future without truth and justice. To forsake that is to forsake everything!"
"You go around implementing truth and justice, believe me, there'll plenty without a future after that. People base their lives - their whole families - on keeping lies and injustice alive. Those assholes will say anything they have to to keep things going just one second longer."
"But they don't have to live that way! That's the good news."
"OK, have it your way." Don pointed out the window. "The windmills are that way. Let me know how it turns out. Guess stupid runs in the family."
"If seeking truth and justice is stupid, then so be it. I plead guilty! Call me what you will."
"I know exactly what they'll call you," surmised Don, his eyes never leaving the big screen.
"Not that it matters but what exactly would that be?"
"Quixotic." The word was spoken with such bitter acidity it dripped onto the floor burning holes in the wood planks.
Joe approached many news outlets but found no takers. Don was quick to chastise. "You idiot. Those people have kids in college and mortgages to pay. You can't tell them they have no future, especially if it's true."
Joe was able to find a much impugned doomsday website, however, which happily printed every word. His work was buried along with much less credible info to be smeared with the same brush. Every which way Joe turned he found no takers. Finally, his discouragement was complete.
"I just don't get it. Don't people want to live? If everyone is as holy and righteous as they say they are then why are they so afraid of the truth?"
Don snorted. "If people are as holy as they say they are then why is the world so fucked up?"
"You know, you never used to curse like that before you got bitter."
"So fucking what."
But Joe's posting did get enough publicity to get the usual pointless debate going in lamestream media.
"It's easy to know what the truth is: if I want to hear it, it's the truth! If not, then it's not."
"But you can check this yourself. Here are the facts. Look!"
"Nobody knows what the facts are! You're just making things up to suit yourself."
"But that's what you're doing!"
As with all dishonest debate, nothing got resolved. It did get the notice, however, of the evildoers themselves.
"Sir, did you see the debate on the derivative formula? Is it true the economy is doomed?"
"Of course it's true! We're the ones dooming it, taking all we can before the end comes. Let the suckers keep thinking they have a future, it's the only way they'll keep propping us up!"
"But what if someone actually believes him?"
"No one ever believes his kind until after the fact. But we're ultra-conservative so you can never be too careful. Better take care of him the customary way."
Joe returned home to his brother a beaten man. "God is absent from this world. There's nothing left to fight for. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it."
"Welcome to my world!" crowed Don.
"I did everything I could. I had no choice in the end."
"These guys came up to me. Told me I had to stop. That only made me want to fight harder! But then they gave me this check for ten million dollars and said to let the world take care of itself."
"Did you take it?"
"What else can I do? No point in keep talking."
"That's great! Now we can get a bigger TV!"
"Life has no point..."
"Sure it does!"
"That's rich coming from you after all these years of moping! So what exactly is the point of this life, Mr. Sunshine?"
"To die with a bigger TV screen!"
Sunday, August 28, 2016
"Man, these Dark Ages suck. It's like perpetual squalor and filth ruled by superstition and communal guilt," moaned Fritz.
"Would you shut up on that Dark Ages talk? I hate you! Who are you to call this anything? We's making progress every day!" Hans refuted.
"Well, for damn sure it's not the Age of Enlightenment. And any progress being made is too damn slow for me."
The pair approached a small Germanic village with a curious sign stating "No Witch Burning!" Hans spoke with a triumphant smile.
"Just take a look at that sign! You's the one always going on about how backwards people is about witches and burning them and such."
"Damn, how could I be wrong?"
"Well, you is, Fritzy! They using your own words!"
Fritz continued walking into the village while in a high state of conflict. On one hand, the prospect of running into true enlightenment thrilled him to the core. On the other hand, having to listen to Hans rub it in to no end thrilled him not. Fritz spotted a village leader and excitedly inquired of the sign.
"That's correct, sir. We do not burn witches here. We passed an ordinance against it and it's strictly enforced. Zero tolerance!"
Fritz wholly succumbed to finding at last an oasis of light and sanity in a world gone mad. "That's wonderful news! I admire your conviction! So you truly do not believe in witches?"
"Of course we believe in witches! That's why we live such miserable lives is because of them."
"But your sign! If you blame them for your ills then why have that sign?"
"Just because there are witches doesn't mean we can burn them."
Fritz was initially crushed but hoping to at least find a half-measure of humanity. The villagers have to yet to wake up to the fiction of witches but are self-aware enough to realize they don't have the moral authority to kill. That's certainly a step in the right direction.
"Well, I'm glad to hear you don't kill them. I want to commend you on your level-headedness and humane outlook. Any step away from savagery is a good one!"
"Oh, don't get me wrong. We'd love to burn those witches! We just found it's not a cost-effective solution. Ever try to clean up the mess after a witch burning? Have to pay people a fortune to rummage through those ashes with the charred bones and stench of burned skin. No, sir. Days of burning witches are over for us without a new revenue stream."
Fritz sighed and decided even though they were doing the right thing for the wrong reason that was something with which he'd have to be satisfied. Still, there's no shortcuts to a future without a good heart.
"Tell me then, what do you do when you find a witch?"
"Easy. We shun them, deny them employment and shelter, and hope to induce them into suicide. So much more cost-effective!"
"Some fucking enlightenment!" snorted Fritz as he continued on his way. Hans remained unusually quiet on their exit from the impoverished berg.
Gregor was the cop who came out when I had my check stolen from a mail box and subsequently washed. I was fascinated that someone from Russia would end up a cop in freaking Dallas, Texas. So it was he who gave a name I could contact on my trip to St. Petersburg. Returning to Russia would not be on the scale of my returning to Japan, only a small fraction of it. But retracing my century old steps would still prove a bit unnerving.
What I didn't know was that the name I'd been given - Boris Bresnevsky - was a Russian Oligarch. Talk about stepping into another world! I find myself riding along in this armored limo with private escort cars both front and behind in a virtual mobile fortress. Somehow, I'm thinking, Mark Cuban doesn't have to travel like this and he's a billionaire too. But Russian capitalism is more naked in its aims than the American version. They don't wrap it in pseudo-morality or make a religion of it like we do. They boil it down to the basics of kill or be killed.
Boris is taken with me because he sees this as a chance to show off to an American - and in his mind all of America. Luckily, he doesn't ask the dreaded question that puts up a wall between me and the world: what do you do for a living? That left him free to imagine I was whomever he wished me to be as his audience. After all, who wants to play bigshot to a freaking janitor?
"Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
"Russia mafia - like you [i.e. Americans] like to call it - has been around centuries. Stalin and everyone who follow was just more czars taking from poor. Same game, different names. But criminals like me could figure ways to get what we need. We weren't going to roll over and die. KGB liked to pick on weak and innocent 'cause they easy targets. They was the real criminals. Monsters in the night."
My head's spinning listening to Boris as I look out the window at passing landmarks also telling their tales of history and witnessed brutality. Boris is needing to justify himself, seeking my approval. Nobody who knows me would give a fuck about getting my approval. I hate when I get caught in these lit fuse situations.
"But Soviet life made us hard like iron. Communist party pigs expect everyone to live like dogs. But Boris is no dog! They kill to stay in power. We kill to eat. Now they don't have the power but we still have to kill. This seem scary to you, eh?"
"Sort of. Someone once asked me how's life in the free world and I asked what's fucking free about it?"
"Ah! You understand!"
"But it seems you're taking a lot chances here, having to surround yourself with guards and watch every move you make. Is that limp you have from a previous attack?"
"Yes. They blew up parked car right as my car pass by. My driver killed. I got lucky. But if I die that day then so be it. While I breathe I live well."
"That's a dangerous life."
"All life danger! We Russians are losers. We try to drown in vodka and kinky sex but that's why we such miserable creatures. That man called us a riddle in enigma but that's because we choose to lose. Who does crazy thing like that? Then we have pretense to like this negative life we create and that traps us in staying same way like with Putin. We stupid but we have pretense we like it that way. Not such a hard riddle."
That sentiment makes Boris smile, using insanity as both a shield and a weapon. Of course, I can't reveal I've gone way further around the block than he ever dreamed. He's proud of his edgy existence even though it's obvious he feels a fool living his life as a perpetual target. Boris is looking for a way out like we all are - but he will never have the guts to choose that.
Gives lectures on Christian risk arbitrage
"In America, we choose to win. But they don't let you win unless you're a whore. So winning is really losing. I say to myself all the time: what's the point of being rich if I have be like that asshole?"
I said the remark in all innocence but then I quickly recoiled fearing Boris was thinking it might apply to him. He took it the way it was meant, however. Always walking on eggshells. Sheesh.
"You're not like other Americans I meet. They speak of their country like a church. You know better. I like that!"
"Oh, it's not that I'm any better. They've just failed to properly bribe me."
Boris thinks on that for a second then starts to uncontrollably laugh. He's isolated in his world and the only people who understand him are his rivals who are looking to erase him from the face of the earth. I think it would be interesting to watch him among his own kind and see how he negotiates. I get the feeling he harbors a hidden side just for that.
"Yes, you are different American. Buy maybe you be happier being rich even if asshole like me."
Boris gives me this sly look and sure enough my suspicions were confirmed he keeps parts of himself hidden away, always calculating and sizing people up. I could shock him by showing him how deep I am into that world, but stay in character instead. Always better to let them think you a non-threatening fool.
"I just don't think I could live like this always looking over my shoulder waiting for a bomb or men with guns. Seems like a real high stress existence. Whole point of being a billionaire is so you can be free."
"Every life here stress! Even dishwasher looking down barrel of gun. Poverty is cruelest weapon! It kills like any bullet. [I've got him making the points I usually make!] You can run out this door and be away from Boris the target but don't fool yourself. Wherever you go in Russia, you will never be free. We make giant jail for ourselves so live best you can. Only place to go is inside Vodka bottle. You want to be free. Tell me where free is!"
I could have told Boris that only a clear conscience brings freedom but then he knew that already.
The new "gig" economy is really the old pimp economy coupled with an app. You can "partner" as their whore, doing all the work and taking all the risk. They love telling you how wonderful it is being used and abused! You see it in their ads. The so-called gig economy is the greatest profession for liars since lawyers were invented. Read all about it!
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Freaking monsters. Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, is especially evil, a gloating sociopath feeling entitled to pillage and plunder like the butt pirate he is. Like many deluded fools he confuses legal with moral. Jesus spoke how CEOs will be "severely punished" but in the meantime we have to live with these Nazi fuckers roaming freely among us. With these guys every night is the night of the long knives, relentlessly trying to stick it in any way they can.
Shouldn't you be able to make money on your own time?
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Meet Uber, your new BFF! They finally had to put some truth in advertising in their numbers and no longer make wildly exaggerated claims on the money you make, especially about obscuring the difference between gross fares and net income. They now promise a measly 576 a week in fares. Take away Uber's cut, gas, insurance, massive auto depreciation and lack of benefits and what do you have left? Minimum wage.
The new app mafia is out in full force flooding craigslist and other outlets scouring for suckers and the hard up for just about any service you can think of. You take all the risk and they take all the profit. Something happens to you? Tough luck, pal! Pay your own medical, no income coming in, no paid vacations. Know why they call you a partner? Because people are always polite when acting evil. America just can't shed her robber baron fetish.
The tech industry is infested with magical thinking. It's one thing to ask if androids have dreams as a metaphorical literary tool, it's quite another to believe binary data has a soul - and many, many do. It's interesting reading of future fantasies spoken of as inevitable fact in news articles. It certainly separates the realists from the religious (and many atheists subscribe to tech religion). Arguing with them as is pointless as arguing with any religious person.
We spin this as creating a brave new world. Attach the word "tech" to something and it automatically adds an air of sanctity to it. Technology is wonderful and as an understanding of Nature is something I truly believe in. (I do believe, however, we are dealing in lower-level mechanical forms of it.) But everybody believes in something however false a god. This isn't the beginning of anything, it's the ending. Technology can't build us a soul but it sure is tragic watching us try.