Monday, March 30, 2015

Unseasoned Salt

The clock read 3:58 AM when she first smelled the smoke. By then, it was too late. Too late for a lot of things. The world had changed forever, arcing towards disaster like the Titanic hitting the iceberg. All over now except for the sinking. No going back.

It was I who started the fire. The house didn't burn, just her painting, one of the six copies of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. I knew the alarms would stop the house fire - but the painting would be toast. That, however, was the lesser of my crimes.

"Throw him in with the other assassins."

That's how we ended up as three assassins in a cell. Me, Mark David Chapman (John Lennon's killer) and Yolanda Saldívar (killer of popular Hispanic singer Selena). What a doomed lot we are.

Their eyes upon me were at first suspicious, vacant and curious all at the same time. I could bear to look at no one and slunk to a corner of the cell.

"Who did you kill?" asked SK (Selena Killer). I was in far too much pain to answer, the wound still open and fresh.

"Leave him alone," urged LK. "At least there's another now."

Oh, what small comfort that is. As in no comfort at all. I wanted to scream my lungs out but who can I blame but me? For many a long while there I tried to Rashomon my way out, twisting perspectives until it suited me. In the end, you just run out of stories, and you're left dangling with the truth. That's how you end up confessing.

LK never lifts his head up. He sits with his knees up around his head, a human tortoise. SL was unkempt and ugly, exactly the opposite as her one time idol. It was clear each one was beaten down with the idea of self-recrimination. Like Judas before them, they knew suicide the only honorable way out. But they remained, hoping against hope. The feeling was one as if being left on a distant planet to die, unknown to the universe.

Since I wouldn't confess, SL felt she needed to get the ball rolling. "She was the most beautiful person I ever met, inside and out. But she wasn't perfect! Everyone wanted to be just like her, sexy and talented. But not everyone can be that way! Her music will live forever. But you can't expect to have that to offer, now can you?"

Getting a glimpse of the continual argument in her head frightened me. It echoed mine. Then I saw her wind down as a robot running out of power. She was drained by the eruption. That was her only repose from the torment. As her energy comes back, so does the arguing.

LK remained catatonic. A one time Beatle fan who perverted to Christianity derided Lennon as an arrogant hypocrite. So he put a very Christian bullet in him. He constantly refers to himself as "Cain who killed Abel" and he too can find no rest, no way of undoing.

I realized I must tell my story too. "I burned a copy of the Mona Lisa, a betrayal right there in her own home."

"You broke in like a thief?"

"I am a thief but she had given me a key."

"So it was her trust you broke?" Well, at least I didn't have to explain what that experience was like to these two. But their hunger showed liked hyenas and I was the dying carcass to be ripped apart.

"Yes, but it gets even worse. She was going to sell it and give me half the proceeds."

"Why the hell you burn it then? That just crazy, crazy!" scorched SL (who had been caught embezzling from Selena).

I paused to gather myself. "No one had ever done anything like that before. Not for me, anyway. I'd never even thought it possible. How was I deserving? I was just...overwhelmed."

"Yes, I never thought he could be my friend, either."

"Nor she mine!"

It was if I was hearing my story for the first time too. "She thought I was worth it. She knew of my life of crime and with that money I could go straight. I guess I was afraid. After getting the money we'd find out if I really was somebody or still some loser outlaw. What if she sold the painting and found out I was a worthless shit?" No one answered out loud. "I was never worth her time but somehow she believed I was. God, I was in a bind."

"We know," the pair replied in unison.

"It's insane now that I say it out loud. I knew burning the painting was wrong but I convinced myself that betraying her was the best thing for her, to get me out of her life. With the painting gone there could be no way I'd be exposed and she'd expel my worthless ass from her life as she should. Shit, why didn't I just walk away when I could?"

"Amen!" the pair replied in unison.

"Was only a matter of time before I got caught thieving, continuing the old ways I so loathe. I could have been saved. I could have been a contender. I keep going back and forth in my mind: was it just my imagination she'd forever reject me after she saw the real me? I can't get it out me head. Both answers roast me alive. Yes-no, yes-no, over and over and over. I'm going out of my mind."

"Welcome to our world," the pair replied in unison.


LK says time has lost meaning. That horror is slowly creeping into me too. What's left to do? Nothing that I can see. The three of us never operated on the principle of having hope. But maybe there was hope until we erased it. We just had to be right - even when we were in the wrong. The sun shall rise no more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The False Flag Fugitive Chronicles

It's a funny thing, killing people. The more you do it the more necessary you think it is to continue. But the more you do it the less you know why. It's the slipperiest of slippery slopes. Faceless "necessary" drone strikes abroad inevitably lead to faceless "necessary" killings at home. That's why you don't want to get into that business in the first place.

Yet, so many walk with hands incarnadine.

The cult of killing has its own unique rules of miraged morality. If you're angry at someone and kill them you're a criminal. If you're angry at someone and order someone wearing a uniform to kill them, both you and the killer are heroes. That's how the state protects itself. But the veil of morality is wearing thinner and thinner. We just wanna kill in the end.

In the old days a high priest would come out and bless the sacrificing of the human. Today, we have lawyers issue memos to sanctify our deeds. God help anyone who believes there's a difference. But killing is like eating a food that never sates your appetite. The hunger still grows - and so must the futile killing. At some point, the desperation boils over.

That's when you get a "false flag" operation. False Flag is when you're itching to kill but can't find an enemy or your enemy doesn't justify being killed. So you attack yourself, blame the attack on your enemy of choice, and voilà you gots yourself a bona fide war on your hands! Of course, that also takes a corrupt and naive populace unwilling to pursue the truth. So far, the rulers we've put in place have a stunning track record of success with false flags, even after the truth comes out no one remembers the lie because everyone was in on it.

Not that I can call anybody out. I got swept up too. And I mean suckered royally. "Gosh! Really?? Wow!!" That about sums up my critical reaction to the line of bull fed me. I didn't want to see the lies nor does the world want to see lies. I'm paying the price for my stupidity now. The rest will pay later - and just as dearly.

I don't suppose it matters to retell the lies told me. I'd be speaking to those without ears. But as a matter of record it went something like this. Our dear President felt unloved. He set a record number of vacation days because like a sulking Nixon on the night of his reelection he knew his con would come to light sooner or later. How ironic the con has yet to be admitted - and as the sins daily mount at this point it never will be.

I can't tell you how much that fucks me.

I was such a clever boy!

Instead of Special Forces I was part of Special Services. Yeah, man, we were even "more elite". Moron me swallowed that even with skipping the grueling training Special Forces requires. Those guys selecting us were smart. They knew to select greedy schmucks looking for shortcuts to glory. We were to feign an attack on the White House. It made sense. There had been high profile stories recently of security breaches and also of the Secret Service engaging with hookers and drunk driving. What really got me was the White House official who showed up giving us this big rah-rah speech on the importance of our exercise. We 16 lap dogs licked up the drivel of self-importance we were handed.

It's really heady when everyone's telling you you're great for the first time in your life. These guys were pure masters of psychology; never a wrong tone or inflection. They played us with a delicious zeal. What a bunch of obvious rubes we must have been to them. I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe so badly I was doing something important, that I was somebody important and that the people I trusted were the moral icons they pretended to be. Well, fuck, I was O for fucking three on that.

What saved me - if I can use that term considering my situation - was the shred of doubt I let stay inside me. I hated it but I couldn't shake it. It was all too easy, too convenient, too neat a fit. I was giddy when picked and the rest was a cake walk laid out for me. Looking back, the self-satisfied smiles on the faces of those professional liars were clearly mocking us. Part of me knew it should have been harder. But that voice wasn't loud enough to ask to pull out of our elite squad. Besides, an even stronger voice (rightly) told me that would be a dangerous move to make - lethal, in fact.

The night of the operation my little voice was screaming. But damned if I was going to listen to it. In the end, it saved my life. When our "radical Islamic terror attack" on the White House began I instinctively separated from the group. "Life is here," said my voice. And from my hidden vantage point I watched the slaughter come from all directions. I also knew I was in deep, deep trouble. The area would be sealed off and searched allegedly for precautionary reasons but the real reason being they would count only 15 bodies and then come hunting for my idiot ass with a vengeance.

I had the advantage of them having exposed themselves during the attack. Not taking it seriously yet the commander of the assassins sent out lone searchers in a loud public display of concern for security. I knew my only window was in this time before the bodies were counted. I had to trust myself as never before. No time for my usual self-doubt or self-pity. You got in you, man! Use it! So I clubbed the searcher who passed by me, dragged him into the bushes and swapped gear.

I bluffed my way out, ordering some ignorant underlings around as needed (the professional liars had taught me something after all) as I raced to "secure" the grounds. I had guessed Colonel Sanders (real name) who'd been our leader was in fact our betrayer too. I threw his name around as I commandeered a car and exited the ever tightening lock down. I drove an hour north towards Baltimore careful never to take a main road. I parked the car leaving the keys in it hoping someone would steal it even with the government tags on it. Then I started walking, knowing I could never go back to my life again.

The "raid" was a stunning success. Approval ratings for the President and his hardline harping on the perils of tolerating evildoers soared to all time highs. "These are men who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Life and liberty mean nothing to them compared to their agenda of ultimate control and power. They must be destroyed if we are to preserve our way of life." Watching that speech on TV I became both the most wanted and unwanted man in the country. My little voice was speaking again, telling me things were about to get much, much worse. It was right.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Part 5: Letting Go

So I'm putting the penthouse up for sale. A steal at 4.9 mil. The money doesn't really mean anything to me and the sale should be easy. Like the broker keeps harping, not that many penthouses to go around in big D. The $40,000 yearly dues is outrageous, of course. But the samurai museum is close by and I like the Harwood district. Or did, anyway.

What means anything? That 40,000 dollar figure nags me like a rock in my shoe. That's what the Woman Of Fabric grosses in a year. When she mentioned that in conversation I wanted to interrupt and say, "Hey, that matches my yearly dues!" What a jackass. It made me realize the price I've paid over the years for riding on my money. I've nothing else to point to! I felt threatened by her, she bringing out long buried insecurities. I never feel threatened by the moneyed idiots I run around with.

I couldn't stop pacing, like a caged animal I was. She drove me out of there. I can't go to her but I couldn't stay where I was. So now....what?

I'm in a hotel right for the foreseeable future because I feel so...temporary. No place is home. I keep thinking back to that tour of the homeless shelter and my thinking, "That's me! That's me!" It's trailing me around like a bad smell. What gets me most is I can't see the difference between them and me. Over and over I try. If anything, I'm the lesser.

Secretly, I'm worried. I find my millions becoming oppressive. Of course, I know the smart ass response if I tell that to anyone. I could give up my money like Jesus said to. But even that feels like just one more way of running away. I can't just go away, I need to go to.

I thought about giving money to the Woman Of Fabric. Not as an apology or restitution. I'd have to give a piece of myself for that. In that I am bankrupt. On one hand I feel it would mess up her life. On the other I feel money should never be an obstacle for her. She deserves to live. Perhaps I'll simply keep her situation monitored and step in if necessary. I did put her in my will. Perhaps dead she won't find me so objectionable.

One of the hotel maids is young and kind of hot. Took all my efforts not to show my dick to her. Having lost my taste for hookers I want to expose myself to regular people. The rich can be losers too, senorita!

I may gradually strip my way down each day. It's ridiculous but this one crumb feels like the only real thing exciting in my life. I want to stand there before her naked and erect as if it's perfectly normal, having a regular conversation. Complete role reversal. If she allowed that I'd leave her a thousand dollar tip. But you can't tell her of the money beforehand. I have to know she's OK with it first. I can imagine the story she'd tell when she got home.

Well, hell, I guess that's a direction I'd like to go into. But that's not going to lead to anything - even if it does interest me more than anything else at the moment. For a while the Woman Of Fabric thought I was a real person. Funny thing is, I felt like one in her presence. The clock always struck midnight when we parted and I turned back into a pumpkin. But showing my boner to the maid is all I really am, lady. Can you really say you want to friends with someone like that?

Or should I simply have not betrayed you and let you decide? Oh, my.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How Am I Still Alive?

4:45 AM. Everything is quiet. Perhaps it's true and this is nothing but a mad dream. Can it be! Can it be? Oh, the relief. I'm still angry but I should not have done what I have done.

My mind is playing tricks. The fog in the morning gets thicker. So little rest. I cannot stay here without hope! Where is the hope? There's never been hope! What I thought was hope was no hope at all. But that was my only hope.

Scheisse! Scheisse! The quiet seduced me. I should be dead, I just know it. I'm right. I'm always right. There is nothing to live for. Who can say differently for me? Who ever loved me? They said I was not worthy. I tried. I really did try to be somebody. I thought I could have something to offer. But that was too much to hope for.

They ride their high horses but I saw through them! If they were as great as they said then none of this would have happened! Do any of them realize this? It's the Great Question of our age. But never do they question themselves. That's how I knew they'd never question me. I have to say it was a glorious ride. What a dream - if I were allowed a dream. Must never let them know what I really wanted or they'd know me a fraud.

Everyone loved me, praising me with their lips. We made our own myths. I dared dream as no one had dare before! Only I had the imagination, the vision. Is it true it was I who betrayed me? That thought I must share with no one.

Was I a success or not? It was a mirage, wasn't it? How very painful. I never thought it through. The Successful Lie, what does it mean? Part of me knew it meant doom in the end, yes, I realize that. I just hated people feeling they were better than I! It drove me insane! This madness forever plagues me. I can never reach their level. Just wishing and wishing and wishing...never getting.

I must pretend to the end. Show I too can have a personal life and true love. Please, oh please, let someone pretend with me so I'm not exposed as the World's Biggest Loser. The criminals can call me criminal, but don't portray me as a loser! How is it the other criminals have wives and children? What is the secret? I know only of the suicide of love.

Yes, it was the appearance of success I had, not success itself. So many followed in my footsteps! We thought ourselves clever finding this shortcut, laughing at fools struggling for love. The ones who knew the truth we got rid of. The power was intoxicating! What else is there to do with nothing real to live for? The Day Of Reckoning must be delayed at all costs! After that, there is nothing. There can only be nothing.

Love. It favors so few. If only God had smiled upon me. Then I would not have needed to create my own gods! Is there no god who can give life? So much misery in the loveless world. That was my currency! They could never blames themselves so I gave them someone to blame. They took to it with a hungry vengeance! So exciting to see my utter acceptance! For a time I felt alive. Who can resist that feeling?

I made a mockery of them and still they do not realize this. Afterwards, seeing the total destruction, will they turn their backs on me and grow up? Will they no longer see freedom as the enemy and control as the savior? Will enough terrorists remain to eliminate the truth-tellers and keep darkness safe in the world? Will they go so far, repulsed by me, as to even give up the slavery of money? Oh, how I would be branded then! It's unbearable to think of!

This will be the end of the age of war too; the romance of it forever gone. Never again can a voice like mine rally tens of millions of men to a false calling. How I will be hated in the coming world of peace. I cannot face it! I will be deemed the lowest of the low, the One Most Deceived. Can even death set me free?

How am I still alive? Shouldn't I be dead already after what I've done. And yet, here I breathe after mountains and mountains of self-destruction. Could I be wrong and my efforts not been an entire waste? Yes, surely that is why I am still alive. I shall go up to the surface today and award medals to those who keep fighting. Who's to say what is a lost cause. Oh, this is wonderful!

I shall marry Eva too. She must accept! That too will show my life has not been a complete waste. Just one little scrap would mean the world! Did I not try to stop the cruel killing of animals with my position of power? But I must hedge my bets so I don't seem the deluded fool. I will write me will after the marriage. If I live we can laugh about it later. If not, I'll appear the sober realist who faced the gritty truth.

I hate these moments like this! I want to live! I want to liiiiiive!

April 20, 1945. The Führer's bunker.

On 20 April, his 56th birthday, Hitler made his last trip from the Führerbunker ("Führer's shelter") to the surface. After midnight on 29 April, Hitler married Eva Braun in a small civil ceremony in the Führerbunker. After a modest wedding breakfast with his new wife, he then took secretary Traudl Junge to another room and dictated his will.

On 30 April 1945, after intense street-to-street combat, when Soviet troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler and Braun committed suicide; Braun bit into a cyanide capsule and Hitler shot himself. Both their bodies were carried up the stairs and through the bunker's emergency exit to the bombed-out garden behind the Reich Chancellery, where they were placed in a bomb crater and doused with petrol. The corpses were set on fire as they were given the same chance to live as they gave.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Babe Ruth At The Unemployment Office

"George Herman Ruth. Age 52. Held various odd jobs over the years. Hmmmm...don't stay too long at one place, do you? No skills listed...Unmarried...attitude..."


"Excuse me?" The proper woman in her proper pant suit looked over her half-lens glasses at the slovenly subject sitting beside her prim and proper desk.

"Incorrigible," he repeated more strongly. "That's the word they used."

"And who might "they" be?"

"Reform school. That's what they all said about me."

"Yes, I see you were placed at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys when you were seven. Says here it was also an orphanage. Did your parents die?"

"No...they just dumped me there."

"Do you know the reason why?"

"Well, you know..."

"No, sir, I do not."

"I guess they figured I was good for nothin'."

"I see."

"They were..."

"Could you please speak up?"

"They was right. Just good for nothin', I guess." The very rotund man tucked in his shirt in a hopeless attempt at looking more fit. "Guess they'd been real bad parents if I'd turned out to be somethin', huh?"

"And have you been looking for gainful employment?"

"At least I didn't make them feel bad, my parents. They really are dead now, but I made sure I did they like they expected of me. I think my mom loved me some before she died."

"I'm sure you were an excellent son. What I need from you today is a list of the places where you've applied or we'll have to cut off your stipend."

"Oh, I been applyin'! But, man, you turn 50 and it's hell out there. Nobody wants ya. They either think you won't stick around or are too good for the job or just plain too old."

"We live in the greatest nation on earth, Mr. Ruth. Opportunity is there for one and all. If you're not happy in these positions of janitor, driver or dock worker, then tell me what you do like."

"Nothin' really suits me. Only time I'm happy is playing softball in the evenings. I wanted to be a ballplayer once."

"The odds of being a successful ballplayer are almost beyond reckoning. Better to be mopping floors than chasing impossible dreams." She strained not to point his weight out to him she was so disgusted by the idea of his wanting to be an athlete. Same conversation she was having with her spoiled, musical son.

"I didn't want the other guys to know."

"What guys know what?" the woman exasperated.

"On the team. I didn't want them to know I was no good like my saintly parents thought. Other boys called me Niggerlips. Nothing I can do about the way I look, is there? Nothing I can do about who I am at all!"

"I'm sorry. I don't see what this has to do with finding you employment."

"It's why I had to quit baseball. I didn't just do like whatever I wanted so I wouldn't be called a bad person. I did like everyone said I ought. My parents hated me so I been hatin' myself too so not to disappoint them. I been fighting my whole life trying to get baseball out of my head. I know it's silly but it's like every time I relaxed baseball kept coming back in!"

"I'm sorry to hear that. But even if you'd been the greatest player in history - " she almost choked on the words -" you're 52 now and can never have a career in baseball, regardless. Have you ever thought of being a dog groomer?"

"I know I can't play now. I had a big nervous breakdown in my 40's when I knew was past the age forever. I don't even know why I was born. It all seems like such a waste. My parents wanted nothin' to do with me guess they knew from the start I was cursed. I feel like the most cursed man ever!"

"I can see why you were labelled "incorrigible". You need to work on your attitude and stop this talk you've wasted your life. You have many productive years ahead of you. You just need to find your niche. Please have an open mind, sir, and, frankly, learn to be responsible and stop blaming your parents. Is it not time to grow up and live in the real world? It's 1947 and the world is changing fast!"

Seeing his money threatened frightened the life out of Ruth. But he also felt something else for the first time in his life: Why? What was he fighting for? What could he hope to accomplish? Say nothing! She'll say it's your bad attitude again if you say how you really feel. Keep it inside like always! Bad as ever!

"I understand, ma'am. I'll try, I promise." Ruth felt his heart shattering into a thousand pieces with the lie - even as he dare not let a soul know.

"Good! Glad to hear it. Now here I have a list of some very promising jobs: Forklift driver (license required which I'm sure you can get); Concrete crewman (construction is a fantastic industry); chef trainee (a choice I think could be highly suited to you!). The future is looking up, Mr. Ruth!"

Ruth pained her a smile as he shuffled off with the papers and their addresses and contacts to see. The world went black.

EPILOGUE: Ruth missed next month's appointment. He was dead: heart attack in the night. He knew that anything that had ever meant anything was gone forever. In mercy he was taken, though haunted for eternity by what might have been, disbelieving in himself to the end.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Part 4: Things Keep Ending

Freaky view, huh?

They say when you have 900 million dollars you've no right to complain. But I always say, "Hey, it's not like I'm a billionaire!" And besides, I'll fucking goddam complain if I want to and who the hell is anyone to tell me otherwise? If you actually knew anything you'd have kept your damn mouth shut in the first place.

It's been rainy far more than usual here lately in Dallas, leaving my downtown penthouse fogged in a good deal of the time. (No, that's not a complaint) I actually like this as it has suited my mood of late. I'm in a fog in every sense of the word. I guess some would say I am in purgatory, somewhere between heaven and hell. Heaven (Woman Of Fabric) shuns me while I shun hell (Texas Railroad Commission, the ISIS of Texas*). The mental trips I endure on a daily basis would blow your mind. It's as if I'm in a whirlpool that never drains; a plane in a holding pattern that never lands. But I see no possible good endings for scenarios like that.

A lifestyle is not a life but I keep trying to shop my way to victory. God knows what I'd do with my time if I had no money. Ever since my failure with the Woman Of Fabric, my pleasures keep dying. It's as if the world has turned to ice and I can gain no grip. Just slipping, slipping, slipping. Even so, knowing nothing but the old habits I stick to them until I can find something better. So I went antiquing in Dallas' famed Design District. Whip a dead horse and maybe it will twitch.

I found a nautical item I wanted at Griffin Trading Company. I'll find a place to squeeze it in my office but the whole time I felt more like Citizen Kane than an honest purchaser. I kept picturing the end of the film where they're throwing everything into the fire to rectify a life uselessly spent. I imagined the Woman Of Fabric watching that scene and shaking her head at me. I feel no hope.

Bored, not wanting to return to the confines of my gilded cage, I made a left turn down Irving Boulevard from the store. It's one hell of an ugly street. That's when the mental trip began. Without the illusion of money, where would I be? Would I be stuck off in those crummy apartments I'm passing by till the day I die? I have no discernible talent. I know in the movies it always turns out a guy like me has some hidden talent or skill or something to offer in the end. In real life, you're just stuck in the shit.

"If they only knew." That voice keeps getting louder in my head. Some people have to believe I'm happy with my paper wealth and even turn violent if I suggest otherwise. They are but pawns in the world. If you could join the circles of the rich and hear how we candidly talk you'd be shocked at how full of shit the entire situation is. Most of us are worthless bums looking for a free ride as we complain bitterly about so-called worthless bums in the street "looking for a free ride."

Irving 2 Irving Boulevard

Irving 11 Rooms without a view

Being on the other side of the looking-glass, so to speak, I'm forced to face truths the moneyless do not. Looking for a free ride is what the money concept is all about. Oh, you'll hear all the bullshit rationalizations of it being a tool for commerce or how it's "needed" to force productivity and a bunch of other rot but if you could hear how these fuckers talk you'd see how farcical it is to call these jerks "pillars of society." They just want to keep their de facto slaves while propagating the alleged morality of money.

We super rich, you see, are really scared shitless on the inside.

We wonder when you're going to wake up and realize the con. Truth be told, it's you conning you, so eager to believe the lies of paper wealth. But if you were to realize your best interests - give up the idea of ever getting a free ride - we'd be out on our arses in a heartbeat. We're hanging by the thread of mutual corruption. True, it's been like that for thousands of years but you still can't help yourself thinking it's going to end any minute.

Man, I'm not gonna lie. I want to keep my fancy digs, my jet, my beloved car collection and, yes, my lifestyle - even if it really isn't a life. Whoever has the most life wins, though. That's how I see the order of the world anymore. "Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first." That all makes sense to me now. I'm at the top of the world, ma - and sweating out every single fricking day.

I just know I can't live in this world:

Irving 9

Irving 5

Irving 12

Irving 4

*Yes, I was asked to join the Texas Railroad Commission which regulates oil and gas despite its name. I actually do have an expansive understanding of the oil industry considering my father's background and from one point having to make a "good faith effort" to run the company. (It was in bad faith all along) Anyway, as you can probably guess, the TRC pretty much gives industry a free ride and, uh, railroads anyone who stands in their way, from landowners to even municipalities.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Goodbye, Emily

I'll never be the person without you I was with you.

The only reason you thought I was someone is because I was someone with you.

Life only gets harder.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Central Park Five (Blacks Who Raped White Woman)

"The Central Park Five are innocent."

"Whaaaat? Can't be? That was a done deal." Or so I thought.

I didn't remember much about the 1989 case except its notoriety and its swift conclusion. Of course, they did it, case closed. When I heard they were innocent and a documentary made I knew I had to see it.

To recount, a blonde, blue eyed female jogger was brutally beaten and raped in Central Park. That same night a group of about two dozen non-white teenagers were in the area causing mayhem of anywhere from throwing rocks at cars to beating up a homeless man. When news came out that five of them had done this attack it made sense. The cops knew this, the press loved the story, prosecutors had a career making case. Everybody wins!

Except for the five who were framed brilliantly by the police.

The phenomenon of false confessions has been studied by the Innocence Project and would be well served to be put on the front page of every paper in the country. To wit:
"Astonishingly, more than 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement."
Take a bunch of 14-16 year-old terrified youths and sweat them for hours on end and you'll get the "confessions" you want to hear. Children inherently want to please authority figures when in trouble (cops know this) and these cops were screaming death at them. To this day, these false confessions are the only "evidence" that ties them to the rape. If the actual perpetrator had not come forward, the hysteria around the case would have sealed their fates. Even with that, some less than honorable people hold with the original lies.

But the truth came out only after serving years in prison, lives and families destroyed, time lost never to be regained. In Ken Burns' 2012 documentary we hear the full story for the first time. It is moving and powerful, a statement not only of those times but of any time, that witch burning by any other name is still just as prevalent. We haven't learned our lesson yet.

It's understandable there wasn't a firestorm of outrage when the verdicts were vacated. Everyone had egg on their face, from the police to the prosecutors to the populace. When it came to looking in the mirror afterwards there was only silence or even a doubling down on the lies. All those passionate people calling out for justice during the trial (Yes, I mean you The Donald), did they suddenly lose their voice? Or was justice never their aim?

When one of the five asked if it could happen again he replied "Yes" without hesitation. You see, it wasn't those five teenage boys who were guilty, it was us. We fear this society we have created, we fear the repercussions of the greed we have embraced, we fear the mirror could cost us everything. When a convenient scapegoat comes along on which to blame our ills it's just too much to resist. "We the jury find ourselves guilty."

Some call these convictions a de facto continuation of Jim Crow laws. But while racism is still out there, discrimination these days has moved to be more economically based. Used to be a time when no outrage was heard when a black man was wronged. No it's changed to no outrage when a poor person is wronged. Poor whites are shot by the police too but if an element of racism can't be attached to the shooting it gets a big "Meh!".

One day this insanity will end. Siding with the truth is never popular and speaking truths no one wants to hear (especially to those who are party to the lie) is a difficult thing. The longer we allow this to continue, the greater the spread of injustice. Everyone's turn is coming and it's to our benefit to listen now if we want to prevent tragedy in the future.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Age Of Ambition: Katsuno's Revenge, Part 2

Katsuno made her way to the Asano lands disguised as a lowly servant, knowing her grace and looks would eventually bring her into the castle. Then, on celebration day when all the samurai would be on parade in the courtyard, she knew Sakuma would appear. And so he did. When his turn came to be close to the dais, Katsuno lunged using the same dagger as used on Hiyachi, thrusting it into Sakuma's throat, killing him before the entire clan. Everyone was amazed by her demeanor, as if she were gutting a fish.

Oda was greatly delighted by the story, never expecting the extra piece of public humiliation. It may have seemed callous for him to be so joyful knowing it meant the end of Katsuno's life but he'd already correctly determined she was ready to die, her life having ended with Hiyachi's death. My master knew breath without meaning was a death without dreaming. But the story did not end there - politics a demon with many twists and turns!

Many in the Asano clan also wanted Sakuma killed for what he did to the beloved Hiyachi. Sakuma was only kept alive to spite Oda. Lady Asano berated Katsuno for wanting to die when so young. Hers was a life worth living, to continue her family name, to fulfill her promise. Katsuno, though I do not think fully, accepted this. But how to save her? Having killed a clan samurai, Lord Asano had no choice but to then kill Katsuno. The question was secretly posed to my master.

Lord Oda vexed his brow as he sometimes does in a game of Go. He had not planned beyond this point and now he must find a solution. It wasn't until that night he discovered an answer (solutions often came to him in bed at night). "Let her escape to the Tokugawa." Tokugawa Iyeyasu was Oda's strongest ally. His visits were electrifying as he too understood the times and was one whose judgement could be trusted absolutely. I could see some wisdom in sending Katsuno there but to me it only delayed the inevitable. The Asano demands would have to be met to protect their honor no matter where she was sent.

While our Oda clan was the closest ally to the Tokugawa clan the Asanos had no ties whatsoever and would be forced to come to my lord to retrieve Katsuno. Why Oda would want to put himself in that position I do not know. I do know he wished it. It was Sakuma's brother who arrived with imperious and strident demands for Oda's help in this matter. As he spoke, I almost smiled imagining my master's no-doubt spurious reply tearing apart any logic presented by this horrid man. Instead, I got this:

"It will be my pleasure and honor to assist the Asano clan in this matter. You, as Sukama's brother, will write the plea yourself, in your own words, not mine, leaving you no doubt this will be carried out with the strongest of intent."

The response, I think, stunned even the brother, who then humbly backed away unable to thank my lord enough and vowing that the Asano clan would not forget this and old debts would be considered repaid. I thought: so that was my master's aim, to improve relations with the Asano. Oda smirked with a twinkle in his eye after the room was empty. All the time I'd been expecting him to explode in anger. A few days later came a messenger from Iyeyasu Tokugawa. It read:

"I am sorry, but I cannot consent. Katsuno is a heroine, and such a woman is rarely found in Japan. To speak frankly, Sakuma did not behave with propriety. I understand that because Katsuno would have nothing to do with him, and because Hiyachi, to whom she was engaged, was a favorite with his lord, Sakuma, out of a mean jealousy unworthy of a samurai, caused Hiyachi's house to be set on fire and also himself to be assassinated.
"In my opinion - in the opinion of all right-minded men - Sakuma richly deserved his fate, and it was fitting that he should die as he did. What can his brother urge in extenuation of this crime? His demand is preposterous! Think of Katsuno! For the sake of a man to whom she was merely betrothed, she boldly avenged his death, stabbing a strong warrior in the midst of a large concourse. What courage! It would put many men to shame!
"And this heroic woman comes to me for protection, honoring me by her confidence! Do you imagine I will give her up? Never! Tell your lord that Iyeyasu is not one to betray his trust, and that he emphatically refuses to deliver up this brave woman to her enemies."
The message was read aloud to both Oda and Sakuma's brother. My lord remained impassive as if he heard nothing at all, but the brother sat as a roasting pig, burned by truths he could not escape. Knowing there was no honorable reply, my lord asked, "How then shall I reply?" Even my unsophisticated eyes knew he was asking if the brother wanted to shame himself by pressing further. The brother stormed off. My mind was swirling. My lord was laughing.

As much as I hate it, my face must have betrayed my emotions. Lord Oda called me over.

"Jiro! Who could have foreseen such a response from Iyeyasu?"

Wrongly thinking he needed political cover for his defeat I heartily replied, "No one, sir!"

"We can't win them all. Remember that." I bowed in response as he retired to his room. Oda paused, however, just short of the sliding screen. "We must hope there are no stray arrows from this battle."


EPILOGUE: The trick I learned was to assess the ending to understand the beginning. What did Lord Oda get from all this? The death of a man he despised but could not easily remove. He sanctioned Katsuno's revenge to take the burden off of her and gain her lifelong loyalty. He strengthened ties with the Asano while ensuring they would never go behind his back to ally with the Tokugawa. Katsuno got her life. My lord came out smelling like a rose!

But of course he'd expected Tokugawa to "outsmart" him. Lord Oda was a master at playing the helpless fool when it suited him. But as he feared, a stray arrow had been shot: Tora-no-Kata. This poisoned tongue found her way to the Tokugawa province, pretending to be an emissary with news. She took Katsuno aside, whispering, "There will be war from the Asano against the Tokugawa over you. Many lives will be lost. Lord Oda asked if not removing one life would be better than losing many in a needless battle?" Katsuno readily agreed and was dead by her own hand by morning.

Tora-no-Kata's role in devising the death of Hiyachi remained hidden at that time. But this deed she did not escape and Lord Oda had her boiled alive in the middle of the castle compound for everyone to hear her screams of agony. In this way he hoped to discourage further foul scheming.

Based on the short story "Katsuno's Revenge"

The Age Of Ambition: Katsuno's Revenge, Part 1

I, Mitsubishi Jiro, was never part of the inner circle of the great warlord Oda Nobunaga. At least not in the discussing of decisions. But I can say I was witness as his favored guard. I don't have the breadth of mind to know how truly I speak but I would be hard pressed to think of another who saw as many sides of my master as I. I have written of my sworn allegiance to him who saw in me what I had failed to see in myself. To a man like Oda, that was much closer than a blood tie, to be birds of a feather.

Because of the spiritual ties, the feeling was euphoric in camp when the high council gathered. Like-minded yet strongly different they were. The air came alive with sparkling energy, and there was a sense of being on the brink of something great yet still undefined. How high would the stars soar? Are not the eyes of history on our every decision? I could not imagine the appeal of another clan compared to ours! The excitement of those times will never be matched again.

So while I reveled in the totality of the vision of my master - he who saw beyond the horizon - so too did I learn of our Lord's genius even in the dealings of the continual intrigues inside Azuchi castle, the masterpiece Oda constructed from where to run his operations. He created an entire city around it and thus set a precedent to be followed by the other clans. The higher one's house on the hill on which the castle was built the higher one's status. But the fight for status was waged within the castle compound as well!

As I've said before, I was not a man of ambition (which was considered almost a character flaw during this Age Of War, Sengoku Jidai). And as I've also said before, I saw many men reach beyond their grasp only to fall from the sky to a deserved grave. They sneered at my perceived cowardice. I sneered at their lack of peace. In fact, my lord once spoke of my inner peace as a rock which a good builder can use. Any lingering doubts I had at that point were gone forever.

Many volumes could be written of the various castle intrigues! I'm sure for every intrigue I knew of a dozen more existed that never made the light of day. What the gods must have seen, they who can see all! Did we appear as a thousand scheming ants, crawling over one another in constant agitation? Do the players feel shame in the afterlife? Who's to know? What I do know is great tragedy was wrought by these dealings, stories that haunt and scar me to this day; acts without wisdom. Anger leads to loss, as the proverb says.

Katsuno was a maid-of-honor to Lady Oda, but her grace and charm and beauty was unmatched among the other maids. It must have been part of the times for men to so obsess as they did. I noticed a correlation between men who reached for positions beyond them also reached for women beyond them. I knew no matter how clever or honest she may be, an object of desire like Katsuno would end in heartbreak. And sure enough, out came the daggers! (literally)

Sakuma was a councillor to the Asano clan, in-laws of Lord Oda. He leveraged this position to its full extant, worming his way into our castle. (How was he to counsel the Asanos from here??) His companion in treachery was the hag Tora-no-Kata, head of Lady Oda's maids-of-honor. To his great credit, my master never showed anything but disdain for either one yet because of the pain of politics never interceded to have them removed. Certainly if the pair ever went too far Lord Oda would ban them - or worse - without hesitation. But their kind knew exactly how far they could go to keep their wretched lives alive.

Of all the things a warlord must deal with, from plans to tactics, from logistics to rival clans, politics for me would be the most unsolvable burden. How could one ever hope to master such a beast! But our lord enjoyed it as a game, it seemed, to be solved like a chess match. Thank the gods there are those who can penetrate that dark, undecipherable maze. In the Age of Ambition any place can be a battlefield.

Crazy as it seems, councillor Sakuma had his eye on Katsuno, despite his advanced age and advanced degree of decayed soul. When word came through the young Asano lord Hiyachi was to be promoted over Sakuma (at least Hiyachi stayed in his own damn castle!) and as part of the deal to strengthen ties between the clans the great Katsuno was to marry Hiyachi as part of the promotion. This drove Sakuma wild with jealous rage - something which I think was only inflamed further by the ambitious times of everyone wanting everything.

It was Tora-no-Kata who calmed him down - but only to effect her evil plan! Hiyachi was known for his heroic nature. For this, Tora-no-Kata laid the perfect trap. Setting fire to Hiyachi's home when he sure to be at the castle, Hiyachi would surely run into the burning abode to check if anyone was inside and also to save ancient family heirlooms. There Sakuma would wait for him, stab him, and leave him to die as a burn victim, no one the wiser. Brilliant!

But the hothead Sakuma used his own dagger to do the killing and when a falling beam hit his hand after the deed was done he was unable to recover the weapon from beneath the burning wood. The plan ruined, he fled back to the Asano clan for sanctuary. Katsuno had fallen deeply in love with Hiyachi and was beside herself with grief. Lady Oda was also outraged at the despair of one her maids-of-honor and took the murder as an insult. My master, for his part, was glad to see the backside of Sakuma.

Lady Oda wanted Sakuma turned over to her, however, and this Lord Oda could not ignore. The Asano clan refused to send him back, however. Marriage ties were often used to help forge ties between clans but that does not mean all enmity was gone. The Asanos had resentment over my lord's previous high hand and they thoroughly enjoyed giving him this snub. Such a complicated knot. My master certainly could not wage war on an ally so he left it at that - even with Lady Oda still fuming. Not a calculation I'd like to live with!

Lord Oda did not seem surprised when Katsuno and Lady Oda came to him asking to allow Katsuno to take personal revenge. Sometimes I got the feeling he'd arranged these events. But I'll never forget what he said to her.

"No! No one may ever take personal revenge. This is not the time for that kind of luxury and may never be. Are you the only one who's been hurt in this mad world? Are you the only one who's felt the sting of injustice? Think of the peasants whose food is taken and lives trampled by the armies. Are we to pursue every person's revenge or pursue the unification of our glorious nation to end these burdens?"

Katsuno bowed low to the floor in shame. She was surprised to find the burning sensation leave her heart, something she thought impossible for life. She was grateful, yet empty. Then my master continued.

"But I will grant you a commission. Sakuma is a festering sore who must be purged. For the good of the whole and to end his own misery of a cowardly life, I give you his life, Katsuno. I would be grateful if you would implement the sword of justice for me."

In a sight I'll never forget, Katsuno's trembling head slowly looked up in disbelief, tears streaming down her face. As her eyes froze into a cold steadiness I knew Sakuma was a dead man. I should have known Lord Oda was not going to let the Asano snub slide by! What happened afterwards became legend.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

REVELATION: The Unholy Trinity

The beast stood alone atop the highest hill, upholding the weight of ten thousand upon his shoulders. The sight caused furor near and far, drawing crowds who were amazed, and they said:"Behold! Who is like the beast? Who can conquer the beast?"

Wondrous of the secret to his power, they remained spellbound before the beast, crying out for its earthly powers. Finally, the beast spoke.

"Triumph Of The Will."

"Positive Thinking."

"God Can Do Anything."

The people gasped, bowing in gratitude. Many dispersed so they too may be like the beast worshiped on earth. At first, they were crushed under the weight, and it was said, "They are not strong like the beast. They did not will the weight." But slowly success came to mimickers of the beast, holding vast weights above their head - though none could match the beast with more than a fraction.

"We followers of the beast bend life to our will. We shall make good out of ill. Nature has lost Her say. Nothing shall be impossible for us. Our slaves will find joy in bondage."

Crowds cheered and marveled at the beast and its followers. These were the beacons of enlightenment who had mastered Nature, leading to the land of milk and honey. Only those who carried weight were deemed worthy of life. Those who refused were outcast, misbegotten to the wilderness. How could anyone unlike the beast have worth? In this way they were programmed.

But a Questioner called out the beast. "The weight cannot be held forever. At some point it must crush the person underneath. In the end, this shall be revealed and the beast will deceive no more."

The voice of the Questioner was strong and authoritative. The beast knew it must answer. "Behold, I ask you: is it death I would choose for myself? This is the way, the power, the glory."

"Death you choose because you see only death. Why not then lift the weight to deceive? Ye of no hope wish to bring hopelessness to all."

"Am I dead now? Is the weight killing me now? No, I say unto you! Ye who see only doom know not the power of positive thinking. My success is here for all to see. Where is this doom you speak of? It exists only in your mind."

In his efforts to prevent doom, the Questioner was deemed the bringer of doom and killed. The beast asked once and for all did that not prove the rightness of its path. Many cheered but Nature's say can only be delayed, never escaped.

One by one, those who carried the weights were crushed. The beast remained and urged the rest to "stay the course!" Until finally only the beast remained and with the many droppings of weights, the earth tilted, crushing the beast, a victim of its own "success".

Reverence for Nature became the new way to life. Truth in every form was acknowledged to be the true positivity. No longer were useless prayers made for acts of evil. "Behold! The earth is reborn! The impossible made possible, illusions gone with the wind. Love is the dream and the dream is reality. Why did we fight this for so long?"