Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dr. King And I

"A man who won't die for something is not fit to live."
Martin Luther King

On my Mount Rushmore of 20th century beacons of light stand Gandhi, Kennedy, MLK and Lennon (in order of assassination). Lights such as they will not return. We give a lot of lip service to their achievements and principles but that's about it in the end. It's no coincidence each one was murdered. Most of us do not appreciate what the shining light reveals - so we snuff it out. But that only makes things much, much worse (I should know).

I see a lot of people climbing on the back of Dr. King today on the anniversary of his "I have a dream" speech. That makes us feel important and - best of all - requires no self-examination. But to be a beacon of light always first starts with self-examination. One cannot stand for justice, equality and freedom without first granting these to oneself. In these the dark and darker days of the 21st century, those are not traits or qualities that will get you elected. We want someone who makes us feel good about being bad.

Dr. King today would be reviled by many who now praise him. He would be smeared as "the professional left", discarded as "unpragmatic" and worst of all in the heralding the faux morality of compromise: "idealistic". Oh, the horror! Injustice is like cancer: getting rid of only part of it is still fatal. Dr. King understood that. But he would be mocked in his cries for justice as the Conservative Left bristles at the idea of questioning their judgmental outlook. But in they who judge one will not find justice, freedom or equality - even if it's done in their name.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become
silent about things that matter.”

Today we see policies of the initiation of wars, extra-judicial drone strikes, widening economic inequality, rampant pollution, revocation of civil rights and a general view that freedom is the enemy and truth the agent of our destruction. If there's one thing Dr. King believed in, it was the truth. But which of those above policies would he have believed in? Many of the sanctimonious left have either supported or turned a blind eye to these true agents of our destruction. I've heard it's all about what can be sold as good as opposed to what actually is good. Why is that?

I too have a dream. I have a dream where I don't have to lie to get by. I have a dream a man's worth is realized to be inherent and his need for freedom deemed as absolute as his need for air. I have a dream our love is set free and we finally realize what we can accomplish in a world without the chains of mandate. I have a dream the weapons of war are lost as we find our inner peace. I have a dream that every dream comes true, bringing us together as one at last. But these are not dreams, only realities to come for life to go on.

More great quotes:

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.
He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight
of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can
never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
will have the final word.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cobwebs On The Moon

Cobwebs on the moon
Cobwebs on my heart;
Solitary soul
Asteroids apart.

There's no place to sleep on the moon - and I don't just mean because of the perpetual bombardment of meteorites from space. You'd think with all this room and huge craters there'd be some spot safe and secure. But there is none.

I am the last one. Everyone else moved on back to Earth. I swore I'd never go back to that raging, filthy hellhole so here I am to the bitter end. Once the others packed up and shipped out I realized my duties for survival had increased several fold. Not a lot of natural resources here in case you hadn't noticed.

The food garden needed tending on a daily basis. Maintenance on the solar panels, constant repair of our lunar igloo, the list goes on and on. At first, it was overwhelming and I almost slipped into oblivion in gradual decay. Why bother if this is all there is to life? What's the point of anything? I don't even have a cat.

But as I lay rotting on my cot I started to think how it would look after they found me dead. I'd be mocked as a stubborn loser who quickly gave up and perished like a flower in the dark. Like they aren't a bunch of fuckers! Look at your own planet and tell me it isn't what you made it! There's no law of nature that mandates you fuck the whole thing up.

Still, I couldn't stomach the smart ass remarks ringing in my ears so I force fed myself the chores, bending my will and harnessing my desires into nothing but a focused energy for survival. Let me tell you, it aged me and burdened me with a heavy weariness. But I kept on, like a man in the desert with his drooping eyes staring ever ahead till he found his way out. And then, I hit the end of the road.

Like an Iraqi surge, what appeared on the outside as a success was in a reality a doubling down of my stupidity, channeling internal resources best used elsewhere than my ill gotten gains. In the fury of activity my mind escaped the loneliness and despair normally hounding me in this hollow space station. But sooner or later you have to come up for air, to breathe, to want to live. That happened to me in the early morning hours when my soul reached out in undeniable passion as I dreamt of the departed Kathryn and all her delightful charms.

Now I was trapped. In order to stay alive I had to maintain the unsustainable pace of the chores of survival. But the very things I did to stay alive were crushing me further into misery, making me want to die. I had moments of terrifying blackness bordering on madness. I thought I could breathe underwater, hold my breath forever, but once that spell was snapped the demons came rushing from their cages onto the landscape of my life leaving me no place to go.

That's why there's no good place to sleep on the moon. You're always on the run. Who am I? Where can I go? What can I do? I was pitchforked day and night. A tsunami of rage built in a slow crescendo eventually overtaking me. But I couldn't aim at me. I needed to blame someone else. I blamed on those who left me, especially Kathryn with whom I failed to communicate. I wrote them a letter, definitely meaning to send:
"This is not working out. Why would you ever think it would being apart from you? How could you possibly think I could be OK? I'm drowning here, this is hell. I had no idea life could be this bad. But hey, don't listen to anything I say. Just make up your own damn story like always. Wouldn't want to fucking inconvenience your little self-pity trip!

"I have to die to prove I need you, don't I? Otherwise, surely I'm tripping the night fantastic frolicking through the moon daisies. Is that what you tell yourself? Don't you have any idea I can't keep this up? The sheer logistics of living alone are too much and the clock is ticking! I need the sustenance of your face just to keep getting up in the morning.

"I know. I should have thought of this before I made this insane choice. Both staying and leaving seemed equally doomed! If only you had needed me. For that I would have gone in the mouth of hell - and come out alive. How precious some things are. I'm a fool. I deserve to die. But I want to live. Just surviving is not surviving, after all. There has to be more. Fuckers."

My bloodshot eyes hit the button to send. Would it even be read or simply deleted upon receipt? I could hear them now. "Oh, he's fine. Pay no attention. Probably just feeling his oats with no place to sow. So what if he's a little cranky? Serves him right!" Always a way to turn a blind eye. I was to be another casualty in the war between truth and lies. My own lies and deceptions had put me here. I can only wither.


When the space shuttle landed at first I thought I was dreaming. Then fear gripped me like never before. What had I said now? Oh, why did I hit that send button? They've come to finish me off and I've no defense! How can I face them? Kathryn will come storming off there waving my note in her hand ready to take her pound of flesh, but I had not even an ounce left.

They were calling for me. Like a script from a nightmare a search was instituted and I heard Kathryn's voice among them. If I could have hit a button to vanish from the universe at that moment I'd have done it without hesitation. Oh, what a cruel God to crucify me like this! Better I had died alone. When they finally found me, I resisted.

Like a petulant child I stood before them, lovely Kathryn approaching me in what was sure to be an unsurvivable rebuke, the hour of my fate had come. My body shook into a mild shock when she hugged me. I checked my back for a neatly placed knife. That sunny smile of hers melted me. I dropped to my knees. "I never knew," I sobbed. "I never knew..."

We drank and talked, walking through the gardens of life I'd always dreamed of. She said I looked like shit and that they got here just in time. Guess I had decayed more than I noticed on the outside. I was just glad to see she realized I hadn't been making it up. Hard to speak up when you think no one will believe you. I don't understand why so many other times my honest feelings were denied. But this time someone listened.

But to stay on this high I would have to leave. There would be no guarantee of continued time with the wonderful Kathryn back on Earth where she must return. I'd be taking my chances. I vacillated. What a sorry creature is Man. With the uncertainty of life before me, the certainty of death now seemed a lost security. To hide in death or be revealed in life, that was the question. I told her I needed to sleep on it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Katrina + Republicants + Larry "The Hut" Summers + Obamaites = Disconnect!

Actual registered voters

First, I see this little gem of a poll taken in Louisiana:
A large number of Louisiana Republicans think President Barack Obama is to blame for the federal government's poor response to Hurricane Katrina, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday -- despite the fact that the storm occurred three years before he took office.
The Democratic-leaning polling firm, which provided its results to Talking Points Memo, found that 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans said Obama was responsible for the Katrina response. Twenty-eight percent put the blame on President George W. Bush, whose administration did in fact oversee the federal response to Katrina. Nearly half (44 percent) of the Louisiana Republicans polled didn't know who to blame.

Fill in your own joke there. Do they dare take a poll on Pearl Harbor? Wonder how many votes Obama would get for that!? Lennon was right: "Living is easy with eyes closed misunderstanding all you see." Unfortunately, living ain't easy living with people with eyes closed. In the end, it's a fatal mistake.

What's interesting, though, with these types of ignorant people is that you can meet them in real life and have a perfectly pleasant conversation with them and sometimes even come to the conclusion this is a person who'd give you the shirt off his back. Then out of the blue they let a pearl like this drop: "But can you believe we got us a President not even born in the country? That sure is fouled up. Just look what he did with Katrina if ya wanna know!"

I don't even try to argue. People see things are worsening and they need a bogeyman to blame they see as being nothing like them. But I always do wonder: Would this person who seems so friendly and gentle be that same way with his eyes open? How would he react to find the world is not a place he can believe in? Would he be violent? At the end of the day, I mostly steer clear of these types even if they are so disarmingly without malice aforethought.

And then we do have malice aforethought:
The Obama administration's push to get Larry Summers as Federal Reserve Board Chair is moving into overdrive as opposition based on Summers' record seems to be growing. Last week they gave the public the story of Larry Summers as a prescient but frustrated regulator. Summers saw the problems in the subprime housing market way back in 2000, but couldn't get anything through an obstructionist Republican Congress.
...If this story doesn't sound quite right, that's because it isn't. The one thing about Larry Summers on which his supporters and his opponents agree is that he is not timid. If Summers had been seriously pushing for increased regulation in the subprime market back in 2000, we can be sure that his efforts would have gotten considerable attention, even if they didn't succeed. People who follow the issue would remember Summers as a champion for the cause. They don't, and that's because he was on the other side.
...Contrary to the line being pitched by the Obama administration, Summers was not a lone voice in the wilderness arguing for a crackdown on bad lending practices. He was trying to put a break on efforts by consumer groups and their allies in Congress to rein in these practices.
...This effort to rewrite history, turning Summers into a leading proponent of mortgage regulation, is a sign of the White House's increasingly desperate attempts to appease those within the Democratic Party who oppose his appointment. That is a tough job.
The opponents of Summers appointment recognize him for who he is, one of the leading architects of the bubble driven growth that has given the country the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Larry The Hut with his defender

After the holocaust with thousands of orphaned Jewish children, splintered families and horrific memories scarred forever into the survivors someone had to deal with the fate of the Jews. I do believe if Obama had been in charge he would have picked Himmler - the architect of their destruction - no doubt due to Himmler having so much experience dealing with Jews! I don't even have a word for reasoning such as that.

"When somebody's worked hard for me and worked hard on behalf of the American people ... and I see them getting slapped around in the press for no reason before they've even been nominated for anything, then I want to make sure that somebody is standing up for [Summers]," [Obama] said. "I tend to defend folks who I think have done a god job and don't deserve attacks."

Hey, Larry (#wallstreetslut), don't be working so hard for us! We can't survive it! Dear Leader goes on to say Larry The Hut is a "highly qualified candidate" - qualified by all his economic wrecking experience, no doubt! Un-fucking-believable. I've said it before I'll say it again: the word for the 21st century is Disconnect.

Don't like the facts? Just make them up! Conveniently parse out the truth as you see fit. Who cares about the consequences? Reality is for those who get stuck with the bill. We're all morons, we all lie to ourselves to some degree. But some things just go beyond the pale and this world is reaching a tipping point no one wants to admit. One thing I know for sure: no one's going to like where this ends up.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Water, Water, Everywhere, Not A Drop To Think

Once, a long time ago I came staggering out of the desert, grateful just to be alive. No one had ever crossed the desert before to find out who or what was on the other side. I was a fool to go so far but once in I was committed to my path. But I needed water before it was too late.

I spotted a good citizen. "Sir, may I trouble you for some water?"

"I should say not. What kind of fool thinking has got into you?"

"I just came out of the desert. Crazy, I know. And I need some water badly."

"Water is evil! It's a killer."

"Evil? You've got to have water!"

"Precisely! It enslaves the human condition, makes us its prisoner. In the Dark Days we esteemed water above all here in the desert. But it is a false god and our new modern thinking has risen over it. Hallelujah!"

"But how are you surviving without it?"

"Quite well, thank you! We are no longer bound by its chaining desire. We have un-needed it,  conquering nature. It's a glorious feeling! The Old Ways are gone, never to return."

"But I really need a drink!"

"Don't be so weak - nay, a quitter, I say! Stay strong and believe. If you believe you can do anything."

"Can I believe you'll give me some fucking water??"

"Haha, not I, my friend. I would not treat you so shabbily. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."

"That only works for people who want to live!"

"And living is what we're doing for the first time in history! Oh, what blind losers we were before! Constantly worrying and agonizing over foolish water. Come, join the latest hipness taking over the land in this the twilight of our civilization!"

"Any way I can be an uncool, unhip outcast water drinker?"

"You shouldn't think so little of yourself. You too can make it here!"

"Who would want to...? Tell me, does everyone here think like you do?"

"Oh, yes indeed! No freak, I! Just ask the Man From The Sky."

"The Man From The Sky?"

"Yes, a man came from the sky to deceive us, saying he had 'good news'. He tried to make fools of us, saying that if only we'd pass over the mountain we'd find enough water to last forever. But we showed Him!"

"How'd you do that?"

"By killing Him in the most cruel, barbarous way possible! If that doesn't tell you what kind of people we are I don't know what does. No losers we!"

"But what's the truth? Is there water beyond the mountain?"

"What matters truth? Is there even such a thing? I think not! What does matter is we got rid of that unbearable creature making us out to be fools saying we lived our entire existence in misery for no reason with water right under our noses. I ask you: look around, do you see water? Neither do I, ergo, ipso facto, no water anywhere."

At that point I could see he was beyond reason, trapped in his self-made world of self-made answers fitting so neatly into his self-made fate. I looked at his parched lips so proud, drowning in self-satisfaction he'd never found in the entirety of his forsaken life. So much did he thirst for this feeling he warped reality into this bent fantasy. Were they all really like that?

"So what happens if I try to travel over the mountain?"

"You'd be shot," he dryly replied. "Nothing can be allowed to jeopardize our way of life - especially now that we've found The Answer! Nothing."

"I don't care what you say, I want some damn water! The truth cannot harm a just cause."

"Fine! Go live with the losers and outcast, devoid of approval, despised be we, the new normal. You will live unordained, unvalued and unheard, scrounging the sands for meaning you'll never find. Dear sir, what sort of plan do you have in mind? It must be a mad one!"

"Plan? Well, I guess my plan is to wait for all the ignorant fuckers to die from thirst so the rest of us who actually want to live can start living."

"Ha! Good luck with that! I'm planning on reporting you to the puppet policeman for reckless behavior making me cry!"

Upon hearing my words, a homeless woman offered me a bottle of water, saving me. "Ah! That was refreshing! Here, try some too, my friend!"

"No, never, never! I'm a good person. I'm running away now!"

Seems crazy now, this madness of so long ago. Life here on the other side of the mountain is paradise found. Almost ninety percent of the population died, denying themselves water in popular fashion. We few survivors had had enough, starting over never to return. In a sense the madman I talked to was right, living life in perpetual pursuit of water was a game with no winning outcome. But that was their choice, mandated only by themselves.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

It's Good To Be King!

The [moronic] ancient Israelites said to Samuel, "Now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other [moronic] nations have."

The Lord replied, "Warn [the ingrates] solemnly and let them know what the king who will [fuck them] over will do."

This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights:

"Don't worry, I'll send every kid
I got to protect your oil."
  • He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots [like suckers to benefit oil companies. Afterwards, he'll jog with those missing body parts and laugh when they can't keep up.]

  • Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. [You will be a nation beholden to a military industrial complex, crucifying your children and making war for no reason].

  • The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes [so that he may keep alive the greedy way of life for the few at the expense of the many].

  • He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his [Wall Street buddies].

  • He will [mandate] a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among [insurance and pharmaceutical companies].

  • He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys [to serve the godless bankers above all else].

  • He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves [thinking yourself 'free' even without hope for a living wage].

When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the LORD can not help you. [And in that darkness you will be surveilled, prosecuted and tortured by rendition to the Hittites if any complaint is heard by the king or his feared men. The voices of liars and hypocrites will rise to the top as your society will be based on their precepts. The longer you try to keep the falsehood of a king alive your nation will weaken until it vanishes from the face of the earth and you are made susceptible to holocaust.]

But the people refused to listen to [reason]. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us [to make us his bitch and whom we can blame when things go wrong because we make such obviously stupid decisions.] Then we will be like all the other nations [who we conquered only by the grace of God], with a [self-serving] king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles [and also because thinking for ourselves hurts too much.]

The LORD answered, "Listen to [this suicidal people] and give them a king..."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Killer Awoke Before Dawn. He Put His Panties On.

The killer awoke before dawn. He put his panties on. His eyeliner was made perfect, his bra adjusted for leering effect. The miniskirt squeezed on and the pumps' straps firmly buckled. He stared into the makeup mirror dressed to kill. The house dark save for this one lone light.

Seventeen years ago he met The Girl. Drawn from his innermost fantasies she came to life, sending him into a tailspin of reeling desire and head-over-heels love. She was a girly girl, feminine and fine in every way, driving him helplessly out of control. For her he would do anything - she was everything perfect.

High heels clomping on the wood floor he felt his erection at maximum hardness - an erection he knew he could never again share but feel only in hidden moments like these. The Girl's softness gone with the wind, only a time traveler's hope remained. Moments of feeling rode side by side with the aching pain of emptiness, of reaching out to what once was but finding nothing. To feel life was to also know exactly what he was missing.

For a few special months the dream was his. But always in the back of his mind a nagging voice, a fatal error looming in his path. The more he ignored the voice the louder it got. Having tasted paradise how could he ever go back to the world of mere mortals? How to go from life in the clouds back to face the hell of earth? No, never, never! No price too high to keep this dream alive.

In the living room gloom he sank into the same easy chair that knew her memory all those years ago. Someone should break in the door and catch him ethereally trapped by her, he contemplated in pounding silence. The sweats started anew, first the back of his neck fevered and wet. The fire poured down from his neck to his entire body, engulfed in a burning lake. Whenever he closed his eyes, never did this fail to happen in the nighttime bloodbath, his bed a soaked monument in the morn.

The tipping point finally arrived, the voice no longer to be denied. He could not sustain her happiness; he dare not come clean. Unable to move forward he knew he would lose her, her vast feminine charms cut off from him to be given to one more worthy. The mere thought of it burned like coals on his forehead, blinding him with rage that even he did not believe in. Cowered and afraid to move into the light, imprisoned in a darkness she must share with him to stay together, he did the unthinkable.

He stared out the window of his upscale home in his upscale neighborhood littered with upscale cars that hid so many upscale sins. He imagined himself walking the street in open ridicule, coming clean at last. Just thinking of it made him harder. See me as I really am, not the person I pretend to be at the office or who politely greets you in public. Many times after work, he immediately stripped off the suffocating suit and slipped into the escape of panty hose and her tiara. But he never left his house dressed like her, he had nowhere to go.

[Life in the daylight was a surreal nightmare of repression. Esteemed at his workplace, he interviewed an applicant, feigning interest as his mind exploded begging him to explain about The Girl, his hands involuntarily clenching into fists under the table. Michelle, the cute new girl from accounting, passed him in the hallway on the way back to his office. That night he dreamt she caught him masturbating nude behind his desk.]

He fantasized Michelle found out about him and made him pay

The killer was ready to confess, to throw himself on the mercy of the court even if the court had no mercy - he would understand. But his lawyer told him not to give up, the prosecutor had no firm evidence. "Give up?" he retorted. "I already gave up when I killed her." But the killer allowed himself to be convinced he still had a future and could walk free on the streets pretending nothing had happened. What could anyone say after his acquittal? Who would know for sure?

His was a house built on lies. His image rehabbed over the years though his soul remained sinking in hell. His lawyer was quite proud of her victory over the D.A. who had wrongly convicted a previous client. Now she had her revenge. But for the killer, he was sentenced for life, never to tell his tale. She told him a guilty plea would be his doom but how clear to see on this fresh spring morning that was his last chance for freedom, he'd never have near that strength again.

The Girl's mother screamed in fury at the verdict. She knew but she could not prove. Unable to let go, seething anger aged her before her time, wrongly making vindication the purpose of her life. The killer welcomed her fury, calling him out for what he was. She became his sole companion in the journey he faced, two souls unable to let go, unable to forgive, sharing the same hell. The mother would avenge her daughter but in heaven her daughter prayed only she'd forgive. Then the killer would truly be alone in the world.

The killer remained frozen as the light dawned on his window pane. Newborn dew glistened in the hope of eternal life. Young lovers parted in secret excited amour. An old man cursed the wind and sky. A bored garbage truck made its way monotonously down the lane. The fa├žade of manicured lawns made whole the deception of contracted matrimony. Miles away the leader of the nation checked off a kill list of who was to die that day. On the other side the world, drugged child soldiers were forced into mine fields to clear the way. Billions toiled in living death as enemies of their dreams.

The killers awoke before dawn, faces in a cage, looking for a way out.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Now THIS Is What A SWAT Team Is For!

Actual dwelling of the evildoers!

Deep in the bland, touristy heart of Dallas suburb Arlington, Texas lies a place of hideous beings bent on ruining life as we know it. But the good people of Arlington won't stand for these loathsome creatures freely roaming our streets. Time to call out the SWAT team and raid their damn ass!

Just who are these unmentionable beasts of darkness? What evil lurks in the hearts of men? Who is it who dare infest the God-fearing banality of Arlington? Why, it's "sustainable lifestylists" of course! Rebel scum! Better call in Seal Team Six.

ARLINGTON — Arlington’s SWAT team recently raided a “sustainable lifestyle” area in southwest Arlington known as Garden of Eden, looking for drugs on land where residents say their goal is to use as few modern amenities as possible in their daily lives.

But instead of finding weed, the authorities during their Aug. 2 raid mostly just found weeds on the property...

Well, at least I hope those SWAT boys made themselves useful and pulled a few of those weeds while they were there. Then again, better not let your guard down against the granola crowd, they might start hurtling bottles of wheat germ at you. Still, so very strange the experts could be wrong about this being a giant pot farm:
...about three days before the raid, police, aided by a Texas Department of Public Safety officer, conducted a manned aircraft flight more than 400 feet over the property, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The DPS official identified what he believed to be a 30-foot-by-30-foot area of what appeared to be marijuana plants growing between a pool and the main residential structure on the property, according to the affidavit.

To be fair, perhaps someone misunderstood the officer when he said he saw a huge chunk of grass - literally. Was he talking sensimilla or Bermuda? Who cares? Call out the SWAT team! Evil plants are growing! (Takes a special kind of person to make nature illegal).

Coincidentally, "during the raid, the city’s code compliance office executed a warrant of its own". Ah, now we're getting to the heart of the problem.

Residents at the Garden of Eden believe in a sustainable lifestyle that includes using as little electricity as possible, growing their own food and using composting toilets to fertilize the land. But members also use some modern conveniences, including laptop computers and phones.

In February, Arlington’s code enforcement staff issued a nuisance abatement order to the owner of the property, Shellie Smith, after area residents complained about what they described as unsanitary conditions on the land.

“We have been interacting with them [city officials] for months. We have been doing this all very lawfully,” said Eaker, 30, who has lived at the Garden of Eden for several years. “We have been challenging their authority for eight months.

Mess with your neighbors' property values and you gonna get SWAT called on ya! “The residents are concerned that the conditions interfere with the useful enjoyment of their properties and are detrimental to property values and community appearance.” I dunno. Some people say the police are nothing but lapdogs for the well off - and that a dog is no better than its master. And some also say the true master of our society is money, not "sustainable" justice.

Well, heck, couldn't prove any of that by me. The world is a beautiful place. I hit a golf ball with a club yesterday, the President must be doing something right. I'm just glad to see raiding granola farms with SWAT teams is "standard procedure" and that these are the same people we turn over every detail of our lives to to keep us safe. People complaining about abuse of power must want the bad guys to win!

"I just do what I'm told."
"Yeah, well, so does an imbecile!"

Monday, August 12, 2013

"Be Prepared For Love"

Her name was Julie Steel. She's the kind of person you never see at a shelter. We all have our trials and tribulations marked for us in the journey/hell that is life but for some homelessness is right out of the question, never fathomed for even a moment. The building of very high dollar condos around uptown Dallas is going through the roof. When I get the chance, I peek into their pools and dear Lord in heaven the nooky meter is off the charts! Had no idea there were so many young, hot babes able to cough up $2,000+ a month.

Women like to get up on their hind legs on Oprah and say how it's all for love, he just happens to have money. That's no concern of mine and I'd love to win the lottery so I could marry a hot babe for "love". But for all their protestations to the contrary, hot babes really do learn early how to "open doors with just a smile." It's all about exploiting men to one degree or another so their feet never touch the ground. So how the hell did one end up here??

Just seeing her face was like CPR for the soul. Maybe you'd see some decent broads donating - dropping off then skedaddling - but never be one of us. But there she was, getting the attention of every guy whose heart still pumped an ounce of life. Not that I was any better but you could see all the guys fidgeting as they watched her, wheels turning on how to approach this alien being of desire. As far as approaching her, it was the same old story: there were those who didn't but should have and those who did but shouldn't have.

I just hoped for any opportunity to speak with her without my tongue hanging out.

In high school there are goddesses who blind you with their stardom. You never stop to think they might forsake that star or are mere flashes in the pan, their lives having peaked at 17. To you, the poor bastard teenage boy crawling with burning ants inside him, you wonder how anyone can be so lucky or the gods so cruel. Surely, you think, the world never touches these ethereal creatures of desire. But, oh, does it ever.

That dictatorial prune Mrs. Case, my English teacher, was the first hint, finding out she was once a cheerleader. My first thought: "What the hell happened?" She became addicted to that teenage approval drug and died. One girl got six marriage proposals then picked one only out of fear they'd vanish like her beauty. She died too. Those who married money got fat without fail - some sort of inner rebellion I think. Some of the cool chicks married the cool guys but they turned out like the Carly Simon song "hating themselves for what they are, their kids hating them for what they're not."

But even witnessing all these accounts, I can't help but feel there are those destined for a free ride if they just play their cards right. I know for a fact right now as I type this there are hot wild babes living it up at Hotel Zaza whose only worry is what perfume to put on next. Julie was late twenties, a little late to the party but she could have fit right in there. What the hell was she doing here?

I had an edge in intel. I know the disorienting feel and muffled screams that invade a soul upon first arrival - especially a suburban soul. That's when she'd be at her most vulnerable, that's when she'd kill for a face she could recognize. I had to take a chance I'd be that face even though I knew I might get a hard time for it from the guys. Do they really think she'd go for anyone so far outside her element? Not a chance. Not at first anyway.

There's a separate place naturally for women to sleep but not for eating. She chose to eat by herself, away from all the "icky people" no doubt. As a cripple of a different sort and to pay back a girl who'd once done the same for me, I sat down across from her, my teenage heart pounding before the princess.

Under Pass Man
Welcome to Jamaica!

I had to read her on the spot. Was she weak or strong? No way to know but dive right in.

"Hi, I'm Harry. Welcome to paradise! Pretty bad here, huh?"

"Bad? This place would scare Dante. I suppose you're here to tell me it gets better."

I had her venting  - which is exactly what I'd hoped for. Nothing worse than having no one who can relate.

"Oh, no, it gets worse," I smiled, amusing myself with the truth of it.

"I can imagine," she said opaquely, fear drawing her back, thinking I'd come over to make fun of her. But very gently I was sensing strength in her so I made a bet on it.

"Do you plan on living the rest of your life here?"

"Hell, no!"

"Then that means at some point you'll be moving on and all this will be just some sort of bizarre experience you look back on."

"I suppose." She was wanting to hold on to her anger but we were starting to bond. We liked each other's face. "What about you, how long have you been here?"

Aw, fuck. Time for my defenses to go up. "That's different. I'm a special case."

"What's so special about your case?" She was eager to put her mind on someone else's problems for some relief. But this isn't the kind of conversation I have with anyone barring the second appearance of Jesus. If I have to explain it then you're incapable of knowing anyway. I knew I'd lose her with a dishonest answer.

"Maybe the world isn't what it thinks it is."

If she were a world defender we'd be broken from that point forward. No matter how fine her figure or how softly her hair caressed that featured face I'd be done with her in any but a carnal way - and even then only to a point.

"The world's a shithole and no one wants to admit it." She answered to herself, not me, so I knew her words true but also probably temporal. A little too much newfound bitterness in that voice.

"Well, if you want some free advice on world beating, look me up." I got up. Was I leaving too early, selling myself short? Or was I actually giving her needed room to deal with the shit she's feeling? Man, communicating is a motherfucking bitch! Of all the skills of the universe, I wish I were better versed in that than anything else. I walked away, thinking of nothing but her rest of the day.




I sat down beside her in the TV room. She accepted me as a companion. I had to remember: she's in a stressed situation, in the real world she'd have nothing to do with me. In the end, I'm nothing but a poacher. But hot damn was I enjoying her company! Just sitting next to her was a dream, inhaling her presence and charms, imagining her previous life. I needed to make myself useful.

"They're going to want you to do a bunch of stupid stuff you won't like here. I got ways through all that."

"I don't want to talk about that right now."

Being your usual I-can-fix-the-world male I took that as a personal rejection. I pouted but maybe I saw her smirk. I watched shit I didn't want to watch on TV for a while but could stand it no longer feeling like a failure. I sighed and was about to go when she said she wanted to get out of there. I was so excited I didn't even think what it looked like me walking out with the hottest babe in years.

Again, I had to remember I was a port in a storm but for that evening I wanted to drink the wine and take my hangover later. She was feeding me and I somehow her. It was just me and her on a warm, humid night and if we'd both been 17 it would have been the biggest night of my life. I had to keep that knowledge from her at all costs.

Her tale did not surprise me. She'd partied all her life, right through school and into the real world. Time came when all she really cared about was keeping the party going. She'd had a fantasy life and fantasy lives require major funding. Men worshiped her so why not cash in and live the good life? There's enough suffering in the world already, she reasoned.

I felt a twinge of vindication at that point. In the name of avoiding suffering, suffering became her! I started half-guessing the rest.

"Then you fell in love."

"Why...yes." Her eyes were grateful, having expected judgment.

Her sugar daddy had his own fantasy and that was that a girl like Julie could actually love him. Finding out otherwise blew everything apart but she was adamant and not geared for lying. He left her high and dry, bridges burned. But the boy she loved already moved on, unable to wait for her. She'd been blindsided. One moment the world at her feet, the next, nothing. She had only a few dollars to her name, no credit, no job history, no way out.

But even after hearing all that it didn't make sense to me. But you're a wildly attractive woman! You've got it made!

What if we'd met at one of those parties she told me about? She laughing with all her friends, skinny dipping in the pool, living the life. I'd have been an object of ridicule, a broken toy no one had time for still aching to be played with and feel alive. No way I'd ever approach her in those circumstances. And yet, here we were, talking and bonding, me holding her respect. I was going crazy wanting equally to jump her and jump away.

Julie said she had laughed at her mother's mantra. "Be prepared for love." Julie thought that the most useless advice ever. Now she thought it the most wise. Fun, fame, fantasy, fortune - it all means nothing. The world truly does revolve around love at the end of the day. That was her bitter lesson. Much as I liked seeing a "free rider" get her comeuppance I had to feel her fate had been too harsh.

And worse, I was beginning to think of her as a person. My inner teenager was wracked with confusion, wanting to befriend her more the be-fuck her. That's not me, I'm no adult. Who am I hanging out with superstars pretending devotion to true love? But that's the impression she was getting of me, unaware I was still under the spell of her physical charms - right? Crap, how do I break this illusion when being with her is what I most want in the world?

I had to make her want me.

I didn't do anything I do like with the day-to-day fuckers. No games, no coy answers to those who choose only to bring me grief. Julie was more than just a looker, I found out. She was educated and funny. I penetrated her mind and found it satisfying. Dear God, I wanted to be inside her in every sense of the word. I found myself desperately wishing to be Somebody, to be able to move in her circles as a person of respect, to have an identity. If I could do that I could then have her on the up and up.

But the beast of judgment came knocking. "You're only opening up to her because you want to fuck her." I didn't really see how I could fight that charge, even with having real feelings for her. "You're only taking advantage of her deprived state." Again, hard to imagine even going to the movies with her if she had her life back. "She's feeling lonely so she gives you time, but she's not feeling like you are." I don't want to be a creep to her. What a rotten time not to be an adult.

I started avoiding Julie, I couldn't face the fact she'd never want me in the real world. May as well break off now before the feelings go any deeper. Fuck! I was polite but curt with her. She seemed hurt by that but I didn't believe it. She just wasn't thinking it through. Who am I after you leave? Don't answer, I already know.

She started getting phone calls she didn't tell me about. Though I had no right having already been standoffish I was deeply wounded by that. I was being shut out. Maybe never before had I trusted someone like this, she had no reason to hide anything from me. She murmured something about a guy she once knew, a "friend who liked me". Yeah, some fucker who can take care of you in ways I never could. What was I going to do? Ask her to spend the rest of her life sleeping in a cot?

I hated her, sulking day and night. I took the opposite opinion of hers no matter what. She thought I was being for real. I wanted to make her feel as inadequate as I actually was. That only made me feel uglier. There was no future anyway, right? She needed to leave to stay alive. Well, me too, lady. I just can't do anything about it. You really think I'm OK here, do you? Who are you people?

And then she was gone. No notice, no nothing. Can't say I blame her at that point. Over time the fog cleared and it became clear to me she'd found another sugar daddy to take care of her. This time I hope she squirrels away some money. I can see how she might be ashamed of going back to that life, not wanting me to know. But as a friend I'd have said for her to survive any way she can but remember her lesson of love. But we didn't part friends.

I thought that the end of it. I wondered if I'd been a better friend to her she might have chosen a better path. But maybe that was the only way out for now. Who the fuck knows? I can't wrap my mind around it. Especially a few months later when - miracle of miracles - she shows up again, waving to me at a distance. She was with a fancy girlfriend. I was more than terrified. She was going to humiliate me in revenge in front of her real world friend. No way I could face that and survive.

I ran out the side door into the cold February air, a hazy sun chasing me down a nightmare alley as I found a dumpster to hide behind. Home at last with the trash. But as I ran away in the name of survival, I died. "Be prepared for love" rang out in my ears. Would she drive by in her car, relentlessly searching for me in a fantasy come true? Had she found her way to legitimacy at last, anxious to share it? Was it love she had brought me after all? The answer to these dreams I'll never know.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Military's Latest Enemy: Atheists!

"Our father, bless thy holy hand grenade
so that we might blow thy enemy to bits."

It's getting to the point where the world is one giant Monty Python sketch. Only, the more absurd we become the more obsessed we are with proving we are not. Like I always say, if the consequences weren't so tragic we'd be a really, really funny people! But in the end the world will boil down to two types of people: those who drink the Kool-Aid and those who don't. That's how Nature corrects herself.

Apparently, the Marine Corps thinks a "lack or loss of spiritual faith" could be dangerous.

When an active-duty Marine was given a Marine Corps training document describing "potential risk indicators" commanders should look for to prevent loss of life among service members, he found one checkbox that didn't seem to fit. Among warning signs like substance abuse and prior suicide attempts was "lack or loss of spiritual faith."

Concerned that this was a discriminatory policy, the Marine notified the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), a nonprofit dedicated to keeping religion separate from the U.S. military. The organization, which told me that it plans to sue the U.S. Marines unless the government backs off this policy, says this is the military's latest effort to discriminate against service members who don't believe in God.

The allure of "killing for God" never grows old, does it? Feel my divine bullet in thine unholy body! Associating war with the one who refused war at all costs is beyond the pale. But then, it's he who sins the most who most needs to claim Jesus, the one who sinned the least. Truth is the truest enemy of war.

Advocates for the policy say the military is simply doing everything it can to promote emotional well-being among troops, especially in the face of its growing suicide epidemic. (Last year, the U.S. military saw more active duty soldiers commit suicide than die in combat — 48 of them Marines.)

Saving lives through lies and propaganda? Not hardly! You know, it was Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus who committed suicide. Propagating the outrage that if one does not drink the Kool-Aid of our military mission's morality then one must be Judas - how the fuck is that supposed to save any lives? If the traitorous policy makers and command cocksuckers would just admit the truth - "You're here boys to steal and protect oil as well as line the pockets of the more worthy power elite" - we'd be waaaay better off. Naturally, people would leave the armed forces in droves - but that surely will save lives. And is that not the stated goal here?

This is hardly the first time the military has tried to govern the religion of its service members. Until 1972, each U.S. service academy required soldiers to attend weekly religious services — and only Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish worship services were available, according to Blake Page, special assistant to the president of MRFF. Until 2011, the Army required soldiers to take a survey that measured "spiritual fitness," and soldiers who failed were told "improving your spiritual fitness should be an important goal."

I wholly agree spiritual fitness is vital. So what the hell you doing cramming religion down their throats, ya godless bastards?? There's nothing more secular on God's green earth than religion, a blatant form of brainwashing and emotional blackmail. Religion is of men, by men and for men. It's a tool of self-justification for creating conflict. "Imagine no religion," said the wise man. Best place to implement that is in the military, those most well-positioned to carry out conflict.

Like I said, truth is war's deadliest enemy - an enemy it cannot overcome. Therefore we're forced to pretend that no matter how outrageous the lie or ludicrous the premise for our actions, we're always in the right and fighting for "God and country." (I like our latest: "To bring stability to the region." The region that we, uh, destabilized.) It's an inherent human need to latch onto that which is infallible. And war means never having to say you're sorry. "Dear Mrs. Smith, We're sorry to inform you your son is dead but have you seen Exxon's latest quarterly profits? He served his corporation well."

America's true religion: her profit margin

Last month, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-N.J.) tried and failed to amend the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act so that non-theist chaplains can be part of the military — a proposal that drew fierce opposition from some Republicans. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) told The Huffington Post, "I can't imagine an atheist accompanying a notification team as they go into some family's home to let them have the worst news of their life and this guy says, 'You know, that's it — your son's just worms, I mean, worm food.'"

Yup, my pathological friend, start telling parents that and they'll likely stop sending their kids off to useless and needless wars. And then where will be?? Amen to that!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

That One Lone Voice

"Thank tha Lord! Thank God Almighty! Yes!"

That my first reaction we I first hears that one lone voice speakin' out. Was like a thunderbolt of light! White folks don' know what it like when you the only one and it feel like ever' last one of  'em pushin' your head under water. Ain't no place to turn! Every eye got its door shut tight, you last of the Mohicans. Who gonna understand that if you ain't a Mohican??

The things that go thru yer mind when the end is near. I knows they was all yellin' at me and I was more scared than anyone alive and it was like I didn't even know their language but I did'n take it personal none. That can't mean me! I'm thinkin'. What more personal than a hanging? But it was like they didn't even see me. They jess wanted to do them a hangin' and I was easiest one to pick.

I was talkin' 90 miles an hour and they's telling me to shut up but they wasn't listenin' anyways. I knows none of my words counted and no way I can think up the right ones to say to make them stop. Is there any?? I sherly does not know!

But that white boy be comin' up on 'em with that look on his face like he's seeing the Second Comin' - only in reverse. Him seein' but him not believin' it. Me not believin' either if ya wanna know! Then he says louder then all of 'em clear as a church bell: "Hey, what are you doing? Stop this! You people crazy?"

Lynches weren't protested same reason drones aren't now.

Up til then I was drowning, my whole world goin' darker and darker thinkin' I's never see light again in this deep sorry world. Too many folks takin' comfort in lies and I gotta die for it. An' that was how I was gonna go out, all alone. But when that boy spoke up my spirit go soarin' like a eagle. I wasn't the only one anymores. I starts breathin' again when all them angry eyes turn toward that boy.

And boy did he get what for jess for speakin' his honest mind! They talkin' to him like him a black man. Shut up, boy. Don't know what you talkin' about. None your business, they all sez. Here I is 'bout to die but here I is feelin' sorry for that boy. Guess I been on the gettin' end too much of that kinda cussin' in my life. Started with my papa an' endin' with these white lynchers.

That boy couldn't of stopped them what with their blood lust all riled up. After him speakin' up it was like they'd be ashamed NOT to hang me! Talk about havin' stuff backwards! Truth be told, I kept thinkin' up to the very last minute they was gonna see reason like the Good Book sez and change their minds cuz they's recking their futures but good! Why not they see that??

I got natural tendencies of deferrin' to white folks. I been workin' on fixin' that but it like movin' a mountain without no help. But I quit fightin' so much after that boy speaks up. I had it in me if I keeps fightin' that boy gonna get in trouble and they gonna hang him too! I was a-thinkin' they jess liables to kill anybody! I sher did'n want that on my conscience. I couldn't help but thinkin' iffen I puts up a fuss that boy gonna get the blame.

It's not about speaking up only when it's convenient -
just the opposite

So how the world work I jess don't know. I died peaceable after that, jess hearin' that one lone voice sayin' I was worth somethin' more than dirt did it. That something you remembers forever an' ever an' ever again. I did'n want to die that day! I had plans on livin'. That Demesha girl was drivin' me crazy with that ass o' hers and that exactly what I was thinkin' about when them mad pickups pull up and grabs me off the street tellin' me I done every sin since Adam.

Maybe I wasn't havin' the most purest thoughts about Demesha. Was they killin' me for that? I kept expectin' them to ask 'bout her cuz I knows my face hadda look guilty. They has to be doin' this for some sort of reason, I's a-thinkin'. I did'n mean Demesha no harm. I jess never thought none of them woulda ever believes that right then 'n' there. I was tha devil hisself!

I was so glad I's didn't die alone like I thought was gonna. I doan know how to tell ya this, but that tha worst feelin' you ever imagines. Ain't no worse way o' dyin' in the whole wide world! Everythin' inside jess sinkin' lower and lower feelin' like it gonna kill ya afore you ever gets killed! You's thinkin' anything but this, jess doan give me this!

When my spirit start a-goin' up them big men start lookin' mighty small to me. All the life sucked right out of 'em. Dreams is dead and them like corn stalks growin' in the desert. Jess ain't got no hope and them too proud to move on. Things sher look mighty different when theys can't hurt ya no more. Who ever gonna pray for folks like them? My momma got pain comin' that gonna hurt her worse than any white man ever know. Why the world such a sad, mad place?

Even Peter said, "I don't know that Jesus dude!"

But then I sees inside those men somethin' I never did expects! They had a thing in them more than anything else like to fill 'em up like a butcher's dog - and that thing was fear. Them hearts was surrounded by darkness just like I was surrounded by them white men. And them hearts not bein' able to see nothin' or hear nothin' or feel nothin' was plum scared outta their wits over what they a-feared was in tha dark. That what happen when ya got no light in ya to see by.

Since I was the only one gettin' lynched I figgered I was the only one so full o' fear. Thought cross me mind: did they kill me cuz they afraid o' me or they do it cuz they afraid of their own dark insides? Almost make me feel sorry for 'em. How the world gonna have a future livin' like that?

But then I remembers that one lone voice and I got concern for him. He was walking along with his brother an' his brother was one angry soul.

"What you thinkin' speaking out like that? Your brain wired wrong or somethin'? I've got an idiot for a brother."

"That was murder that just happened!"

"Ain't nobody care what you call it! Didn't your ignorant ass see the Mayor standin' there and the sheriff too makin' it all legal? You wanna go up agin them? Who are you to be talkin' law?"

"I jus' had to say something. Wasn't thinkin - "

"That's right, moron, you wasn't thinkin'! You think anythin' you say gonna make a difference? You think anythin' comin outta your mouth was gonna stop it? Just keep your trap shut!"

"I wasn't thinking I was gonna stop it or not stop it. I was jus' sayin'."

"You wanna be the next one killed then you just keep speakin' that fool mind of yers and see where that gets ya! Shuts your damn mouth before you get us even deeper in trouble. I already got people asking questions about you."

"Questions like what? Ain't I allowed to speak?"

"Not when there's no point in it! People thinkin' you gonna blabbermouth this to everyone you see, stirrin' up trouble. I gotta tell 'em it's just my dumb stupid brother who don't know no better who go around talkin' like a child."

"I guess I don't understand."

"Don't understand what?"

"I don't understand why folks would be upset about me sayin' anything if they'd done nothin' wrong."

"That's why you a moron! The world's a good place and you better keep the faith and not be disturbin' the order of it. You stop lynchin' and all hell gonna break loose. Sometimes I just hate you!"

Conversion on the road to Damascus

Wow, I guess it not even safe for a white man in a white man's world iffen his mind step outta line. His brother sher was wrong, tho! I was dang glad he spoke up. Him did make a difference. But his brother was scared plenty. Scared of them other men, scared of thinkin' his brother was right and scared of lettin' go that hate in him. That the thing about hateful folks, they gotta have everyone else feelin' same hate or they go outta their minds! When that brother start talkin' again, he was lookin' in a mirror.

"It's simple really . The black man just ain't no good. We could kill a hundred of 'em and it wouldn't make no difference. They don't count like white folk do. Heck, even some of them will tell ya that jus' in case ya think I prejudicial. We cleanin' up the town, making things safe for decent folk. That's God's work we was doin' back there. We got us a whole kill list even. You just wanna let them niggers go off and do anything they please!?"

"Ya'll sure was doin' what you pleased alright! But if I'm so dumb then jus' don't worry about what I say or think."

"I gotta worry. They know what I know."

"What that be?"

"That every voice count. Only take one to start yappin' stirrin' up trouble. And we don't want you spreadin' no lies around like this was murder!"

"I won't be spreadin' no lies," smiles that boy. His brother not realizin' that means him gonna be sayin' the truth!

Later I see the brother kneeling in church like he the most respectful person ever entered. He hopin' him talkin' to God but really it just hisself. He want forgivin' for what he done only he sayin' he can't speak the truth ever again cuz of what he done and him wonderin' if he can get into heaven anyways.

The nerve of that boy! I wouldn't be mad at ya no more if ya jus' admits what ya done. That all I askin' for. That all I ever be askin' for. Doan matter what ya done. Jess leave the hate behind. Admits the truth and then come give this nigger a hug! Only way you gonna die a man.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Caravaggio, A Life Sacred And Profane (Book Review)

My introduction to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) began at the celebrated world class Fort Worth small museum The Kimbell. There resides her most prized possession of her prized collection: Caravaggio's Cardsharps. I'm no analyst who can verbalize the whys and wherefores of an art object like author Andrew Graham-Dixon in his book on Caravaggio but I can tell you I immediately fell in love with this painting and own an oil reproduction of it.

We've all had moments of pure clarity, honest expressions we've allowed through our hearts and into the world. We are justly proud of those genius moments but such genius does not wholly define us. Caravaggio was a man who oscillated between the "sacred and profane" like we all do only his extremes were greater than most because his life was greater than most. When speaking of Caravaggio it's easy to parse out one side or the other, to speak only of his transcendent art or his destructive personal life. Graham-Dixon's book does justice to both.

Caravaggio was that most cursed and doomed of all entities: a free spirit. Never in the history of mankind has one lived to survive. His life was tumultuous from beginning to end, until finally in the end he found himself caged along with his art. The wounds of the world had caught up with him. So I tell a tale of two men. First, of Caravaggio the Teddy tough boy.

"You lookin' at me?"
- Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver (Director Scorsese admits to a heavy Caravaggio influence)

Conversion of St. Paul

The mean streets of Rome in the time of Caravaggio were full of angry, energetic young men with chips on their shoulders, looking to scuffle, drink and whore. Petty vendettas of "honor" ran through the tight avenues in an undercurrent of violence from the defacing of a door with feculence to the cutting of a person's face in recourse for "injury to reputation." Caravaggio fit right into the milieu. Struggling with his own identity as a person it's been conjectured he was everything from a raging homosexual to a pimp. Indeed, Caravaggio is an icon in the homosexual community today but like so many things surrounding his persona they became exaggerated with his larger than life existence.

Caravaggio knew he'd never be a pillar of the community thus he needed many protectors in his life. In his early days in Rome he dangerously carried a sword and dagger, items expressly forbidden or requiring a license. This put him always at the edge of the law with his Jim Morrison attitude towards the police but his high place protectors for whom he painted bailed him out time after time. In the nocturnal scrapping over territories Caravaggio developed bitter enemies and one in particular. This resulted in a highly illegal duel leaving one dead enemy and a fleeing Caravaggio.

For the remainder of his days Caravaggio would be on the run. He needed freedom. He saw lesser talents than he rewarded with gold chains and commissions by compromising their artistic integrity in lowly propaganda paintings. Caravaggio the man sought freedom in a world that would never grant it. Deep down he knew this and it fueled his violent nature. He'd been banned from Rome for the killing and in a symbolic quest he pursued the freedom to return to the center of the art world, the place most home to him.

"One thing I can tell you is you've got to be free!"
- John Lennon, "Come Together"

Calling of St Matthew - but which one is Matthew?

On the outside, Caravaggio achieved his ultimate success on the island of Malta, governed by an ultra-strict sect called the Knights of St. John. Like so many times before (and hence) he painted his way out of trouble and into the good graces of the powers that be. He was knighted, given his own gold chain - and then promptly got himself thrown into prison after insulting and breaking down the door of one of the knights much higher up the chain than he.

The author called this an act of self-sabotage but it was nothing of the sort. The acceptance of the knighthood, of it chaining him to that island - even by a golden chain - that was his true self-sabotage. The fracas that jailed him also freed him of his obligations to the suffocating rules and regulations he could never stomach. He escaped to Sicily, moved from town to town and finally got word of a potential pardon by the Pope to live and return to Rome.

But that was only a symbolic freedom. Caravaggio still had many enemies back there, stepped on too many toes in his lifetime and the walls were collapsing around him as he became further and further indebted to men who expected something in return for any help he received. Just before he was set to leave, a group of men ambushed Caravaggio, slashing his face and causing deep injury. Separated from the boat meant to return him, Caravaggio exhausted himself trying to catch up and died two days later from fever and still unhealed wounds. He died homeless but chainless.

"Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not."
- Mozart in "Amadeus"


It was that lack of chains that caused him so much personal misfortune that also provided for his great legacy as an artist. Author Graham-Dixon does an excellent job of breaking down Caravaggio's paintings, contextualizing them and bringing them to life. The Renaissance was a time when color was finally bleeding back into the world from the Dark Ages but art was still controlled for the most part by the Pope and the cardinals and the religious hierarchy (who also had much legal authority). How does one paint another man's god and still be meaningful?

You don't. As the author quite correctly points out, Caravaggio was always painting himself, his inner turmoil, the encroaching darkness of his imperiled light and life. The magic of it was that the truth he put into his paintings made whatever Biblical story he had to tell all the more stronger and real, wildly pleasing his benefactors for the most part (sometimes he got too real for them). This is how he remained true to himself.

"It's better to burn out than fade away."

David with the head of Goliath.
Caravaggio used his own face for the dead heathen.

In his art Caravaggio sought atonement. For all the misdeeds and mayhem of his personal life, of his self-destructive betrayal to the truth of love, he hoped to ameliorate this with his paintings. The greater the guilt, the greater the drive. He knew he couldn't keep saying "Forgive me" with his paintbrush forever but he was never able to escape that cycle. Salvation in paint never brought him salvation in life. He knew better but couldn't do better.

Caravaggio's Cardsharps was a pioneer in genre painting at the time (in fact, creating its own genre widely duplicated). His use of light and dark was also revolutionary. A self-taught man, he could answer to no one but himself. He saw his only rival as that of his predecessor from whom he was named: Michelangelo. In his art Caravaggio created a dialog with the art of Michelangelo, giving his own take on renowned deeds of the great master, such as recreating Michelangelo's finger of God to Adam. Caravaggio's intelligence and mastery were not be underestimated.

Cover highlights one of the many self-portraits
Caravaggio worked into the background of his paintings

Graham-Dixon's book is finely researched citing papers that have only recently come to light in the past decade. When needed, I found his assertions and conjecture to have a ring of truth. At times, I did notice some hesitation on occasion, like a runner who fears to finish first. Still, this is a bold and grand step into Caravaggio's life and world and a must read for anyone interested in this great and troubled soul.

A few more for your viewing pleasure:

Bacchus, Roman god of wine and intoxication

Betrayal of Christ

Seven Mercies

As altarpiece

The man himself