JUNK PUNCH is Published

This is sort of old news (within the month) but my first book, JUNK PUNCH, has been published and is available for you to consume, literally and figuratively. Although if you do decide to consume it literally, I’m not responsible for damage done to your internals.

The premise of the book is three-fold. The first is a self-help schema to which readers would be able to learn about the importance of the self and how to utilize it. The second is a very small peek into what would otherwise be considered my philosophy, onto which a second book could, would, and actually is being written (this is not like infamous day-one DLC for video games, which is bullshit). The final is a small bit of a memoir which pulls from three years of my life relative to the first point. If any of that sounds like an amazing, near orgasmic time to you, by all means, grab yourself a copy!

I have independently published the book through Lulu, which you can order the paperback version from there. Keep in mind that Lulu doesn’t stock books and instead prints on-demand. So if you place an order from there, be aware that it might take a few extra days to print (I’ve had two to three days on this) plus the shipping time. I am going to keep copies on-hand for people who would rather purchase them from me. Right now I have thirty, of which most are allocated, but I’ll order more soon; I’m still configuring a store page for this so bear with me. The book is also available on the Amazon Kindle.

All proceeds from paperback sales, from now until the end of the Capitalist world, will be donated to a charity relative to substance abuse and recovery. I will only keep those sales made from the eBook which will be used exclusively to fund the next book. At the time of this writing, I’m still vetting out charities but a separate account has been made for this money and it will be allocated as such.

New York City – The Pain of Pleasure

New York. Sometimes affectionately referred to as The Big Apple. Culturally it has long served as the galvanizing catalyst for the United States, as if to somehow represent the absolute best we have to offer as a country. Countless Hollywood movies, video games, fictional literature, music, and live stage plays use New York as a backdrop for one or more subsequent devices. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s flashy, and it moves at lightning speed day and night, never resting for a single moment. For those of us who live outside its boundaries, we look on with awe and wonder at the cascade of imagery that emerges in the press. An itch scratches the back of our minds, causing us to wonder just what the New York Experience is. Some of us will never have an opportunity to immerse ourselves in it, and up until recently I would have counted myself amongst that lot. But the ever emergent circumstances in my life rolled the red carpet out to me and walk down it I did.

Emerging from the depths of the Amtrak Pennsylvania Station at 33rd and 8th, I was immediately taken aback by the sheer volume of people. There could have easily been close to two hundred of them on the block alone. As we walked from the tram station to our hotel, the Marriott Marquis on 45th and 7th, the swarm only seemed to increase in size exponentially. This made sense as we were travelling north on Broadway Ave which runs directly through Times Square, but coming from a far smaller town, one can never really prepare for a shock of this sort. There was no investigation into the current population estimates prior to my departure from Ohio, but I later discovered that there’s roughly nine million people in NYC alone, with nearly 2,750,000 of them being in Manhattan. Of course one doesn’t come into contact with all the residents of Manhattan at once, but it’s not uncommon to do so with a few thousand people a day. To put this into perspective, the town I live in only has a population of 22,500 and you’re hard pressed to see a hundred people a day. Everywhere you look you would find people walking down the street, riding a bike, flagging a taxi or shuttle, or sitting in a shimmed veranda that encroached onto the sidewalks where restaurants took up residence at. They were tucked into nearly every orifice the city had to offer, perhaps even some the city didn’t realize it had. The necessity of the skyline being dotted with skyscraper after skyscraper made so much more sense at that moment. It is quite impossible to facilitate that many people in a horizontal fashion, so the only solution is to go up. You can trust also that every floor of every edifice was occupied by someone. This principal of vertical expansion applied to all sorts of establishments, from small clothiers to bowling alleys where, for example, the third floor hosted a different set of lanes than the fourth. That being said, a recurring proposition in my mind arose when I realized that I was standing in the same exact location of the famous New Year Ball Drop and tried to imagine myself there with all of these people.

The purpose of my trip was relative to my job, as I’m now sure is an entirely common excuse for a visit. However, that didn’t mean that there wasn’t some leeway for tomfoolery and exploration of the touristy kind. Wandering through the streets ended up being a daily occurrence when not involved in something convention related. Prior to my group’s walkabouts, I must confess to professing some trepidation against appearing to be a tourist. They’re incredibly easy to spot, even from within the infinite rabble, and being on foreign soil meant being on guard. All one has to do is look for the extended selfie sticks and angled heads fixated on the towering behemoths that showcase a fruitful marriage of architecture and engineering. Adorning only those closest to the centre of it all were displays that sprawled sometimes the entirety of a single face, constantly cycling one advertisement after another and not a single one of them in tandem with the other to form anything remotely aesthetically pleasing; one was more likely to convulse in epilepsy before they even made it to the shop in the ad. Anyway, this fear of the tabi bito hyōjō was soon proven to be moot once a cardinal rule of navigation was discovered – go with the flow. The sooner one fell in line with the apparent consciousness of the fumbling mass, the sooner one became transparent to even the person rubbing shoulders against you. In this, one could get away with the occasional flick of the phone to grab a photo of something or someone, but if the shutter were ill-equipped to handle motion, every single one would be a guaranteed blur. Amazingly, those who were carting multiple large totes of luggage or, insanely, a stroller housing an infant, were able to occupy space just as comfortably as a single person albeit at the cost of inner-swarm dexterity. Any sign of a shift in the wave would be evident to everyone and, when opened, they would all vie for the ability to move – a sort of material coagulation.

So tourists we were and explore we did. With only five days to spare, it was impossible to see and do everything that Times Square had to offer, but of its many entertainments, we ventured several that stood out. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum allowed me to pose with Morgan Freeman, launch nuclear weapons while Barack and Michelle Obama smiled ever so casually, fly E.T. through the skies on a bicycle, sit next to Ernest Hemingway, allow Kelly Ripa to experience hosting a daytime talk show with me, get carried away by King Kong, help Indiana Jones take the golden idol, remind Charlie Chaplin of how short he really was, square-up with Fidel Castro, get my hand moulded into wax, experience my first ever so-called 4-D movie, and participate in a full-range virtual reality simulation of Ghostbusters where we were able to battle and catch ghosts. The Minskoff Theatre played host to the Broadway production of The Lion King which, even all these years after its inception, is still an amazing experience. It was very much like watching the movie all over again, which I made a point of seeing the month it was released in 1994, but breathed such new life into what would have otherwise been a stale monument in my distant childhood. Let it be known that no expense was spared when venturing only ten steps into Central Park by Columbus Circle before briskly turning back and heading toward the nearest shopping plaza. A film crew was on location shooting imagery of a concrete sculpture atop which a golden ornament of some kind sat, and it was fascinating to see how nearly everyone was in one of two camps at that moment: acting entirely blasé toward it or contemplating on how to photobomb the camera at points in an attempt to immortalise themselves on film, regardless of what it was about.

Of course, the foodie in us came out and it was not disappointed in the slightest. The Brooklyn Diner on 43rd was incredible. The décor exuded a subway-esque atmosphere that was very alluring. For me, a hamburger and fries. For my girlfriend, a veggie burger and fries. For my boss and his wife, a hot dog and fries. The catch? The hot dog was nearly an entire pound of meat – it was huge. A little pin was even attached to it that read “15-bite dog.” Challenge or no, it was assiduously avoided as the two cut it into comfortable portions between them. Being a beef and potato fanatic myself, passing positive judgement on my dish wasn’t difficult at all. That had been the first time I’d eaten fries served in a cup with rosemary and bay leaf dressing. I hesitate to speak on her behalf, but the veggie burger didn’t fare as well in the satisfaction department. Wrapping this venture up, to give yet another example of distributable portions in this establishment, a woman seated next to us who no sooner remarked on the size of the hot dog we’d received got a chicken pot pie she’d ordered and it was nothing less of a whopper. Considering the pan and height of the crust, it had to have stood a whole eight to nine inches from the table and easily more than seven inches in diameter. Something tells me she had a distinct amount of leftovers the following day. Next came the desire to have an authentic New York pizza. Despite my near complete lactose intolerance, I was hell-bent on making this happen. Fortunately, a recommendation made to my boss during the first day of the convention lead a crew of us to Don Giovannis. Now I certainly don’t have my finger on the pulse of the city regarding it in relation to others, of which I’m sure invites a war of religious proportions, but I can say with unabated conviction that the pepperoni pizza here is the best that I’ve ever had. Supplanting my long-time local favourite, Victorios, is no minor feat, make no mistake. After consuming three large pizzas and a few beers, a sort of childish depression kicked in understanding that there is no comparable pie in Ohio that I’ve ever tried. To help rationalize this, I’ve partitioned my favourites by localities now. When in Manhattan, it’s Don Giovannis. When in Alliance, it’s Victorios. Although I still wish teleporters were viable…

The only real disappointment in this aspect was from a restaurant called The View. Located on the 45th floor of the Marriott Marquis, this apparent bungalow for the affluent played host to a menu where your only option was to participate in a three-course configuration and deviation from this was not allowed under any circumstances. First strike – totalitarian enforcement of the laws of the kitchen. On a more practical sense, cumulatively this was going to be way more food than I’d ever or could possibly even consider eating in a single setting, yet there was nothing I could do other than stuff it down. Furthermore, my palette for exquisite foods of this sort wasn’t broad enough, thus I was able to eliminate nearly everything on the menu as being something remotely appetizing. Yes, I do have a sensitive palette. Yes, I do have issues with textures. So yes, I am a picky eater. The appetizer, a salad, I ordered reluctantly for fear of it being over lavished in something so exotic that by only smelling it you’d endanger fifteen species of turtle; this turned out to be the case. Second strike – simplicity will always win out over complexity, especially in the food department; I was enjoined to waste the entire dish. The main course was a bit of steak, by that I mean a mere nibble, and steamed vegetables. This was agreeable although I prefer my steaks without butter. Dessert was a flight of gelato: four flavours with four distinct toppings. For drinks I settled for merlot and a glass of water. Verdict? Unimpressed, especially considering the price. The only redeeming quality about the place was the fact that the seating floor gradually rotated. It is exactly as it sounds – the floor rotates while you sit on it. Not in the way that manipulates the G-Force during astronaut training – this was incredibly subtle. Thus it is possible for one to get dinner and see the heights of the Manhattan Mountains all around you. Third strike – if I like your floor engineering more than your food, you’ve confused your priorities.

The streets themselves seemed to emanate with a life of their own – almost as if the very concrete would at any moment reach up to greet one with a handshake and offer recommendations for tourist hotspots. Carousing past the mammoth towers with open doors proved to be far more inviting than initially thought since each of them offered something different than the last. On display was the ingenuity of human design philosophy made real. Even though the employees contained inside were either too uninterested or too excited, they indeed improved the impact substantially, and regardless of the sway of mood, they were at minimum courteous.

However, for all of the distractions and entertainments that are on offer in the core of the apple, for all of the glitz and glamour, for all of the crowning achievements of engineering and Capitalism, when considering humanities it is an absolutely appalling place to experience. It’s important to understand that the lifeblood of this city is money. This is not a facetious exaggeration; everyone, everywhere, at all times is trying to sell you something regardless of how banal the item or service is. Every street is littered with food trucks and kiosks, makeshift tables holding designer product selling for literally seven-eights of its price in a major retailer (which, hilariously enough, we experienced this in Harald Square across from Macy’s), makeshift crafts and souvenirs for the unsuspecting tourist, news stands that offer all sorts of magazines and unhealthy treats and, worse yet, apparently homeless people passively vying for only money. It is not a far-fetched assertion that anyone you see walking on the streets is physically moving only because whatever web of entrapment constructed by money that they’re involved in has compelled them to do so, certainly in perpetuity. Moving for the grind, as some in my generation term it, comes as natural to them as breathing. In this, each of them is a self-maximizing preference seeking agent and the only objective is money – no more, no less; and this is a universal truth for all of its residents.

This very mistaken view of worshipping a pseudo legitimate impetus for the kinetic energy which places all humans in motion relative to society stretches to all aspects of human existence relative to our environment. Once on a walk toward Central Park West, we travelled north on 6th avenue and the closer we got, two things became obvious. First was that the congestion of people tended to simultaneously thicken yet disperse, and intermingled within them on one side of the street was pile after pile of garbage. Waist-high walls, in plain sight, consisting of one white plastic bag after another, each one brimming to the point of bursting, some in fact did, that stretched for nearly two entire north-south blocks that bordered 59th avenue which is the street-wise border between the city and Central Park. Not a single person, not a one (including myself shamefully), tried to do something about it. Burst bags allowed their contents to pour out onto both the street and sidewalk, and one by one people simply walked past them, some stepping on the rubbish, and continuing on with an all too blasé attitude. According to the Centre for Sustainability and Commerce from Duke University, on average, a single person produces roughly 4.3 pounds of waste a day, and the yearly average for the United States is about 220 million tons. Now, according to GrowNYC, a group focused on sustainability relative to New York City, current estimates suggest that the people in that city alone produce 12,000 tons of waste a day, most of which is plastics that are produced using fossil fuel and are only used once. Performing some simple math, we find using the current estimates that the yearly average of waste pounds produced by NYC alone is 4,380,000. One has to ask where it goes? Some goes to incineration, some goes to recycling, but most goes to landfills outside the city. There’s simply too much of it and those in governance have absolutely no idea what to do with it other than to sweep it under someone else’s floor mat. But that’s okay because they’re still raking in record profits and still able to keep their $5,000-per-month high-rise apartment. And the constituents within the city, concerned first and foremost with fulfilling their money-demanding responsibilities, don’t offer a solution the time of day.

On any given day you’d be hard pressed to venture down an avenue and, when being propelled onward by the momentum of the bulge, trip over a few of the city’s homeless. They were affixed to the pavement in one of two locations: on the sidewalk against the wall of a building or elevated on steps. Wherever they could sit that was in the periphery was suitable enough. Their pining for money was performed either passively, by using what is now known as the marker on a cardboard cut-out (the social media plea for help), or aggressively by acting like the criers so often seen with the aforementioned turncoat salespeople on the street. Those in the former lot did nothing but sit and read books or sleep, expecting the cup or container placed in front of them to hopefully produce a yield of something. I should state, for the record, that homelessness is an inexcusable, intolerable, and inhumane reciprocal of our society that goes largely ignored, and that it is the reciprocal of nothing more than our worshipping of money and simple overpopulation. That being said, the truly horrid aspect behind all homelessness is that because it is the byproduct of money, it is morally difficult to ascertain if one is actually homeless or perceptibly homeless. This proves to be an issue when one considers what to do to help, especially when that help manifests as the donation of liquid assets, i.e. cash. One has to ask, legitimately, what is that person going to do with the cash that was given to them? It is a well known statistic that those people who are incredibly wealthy are far less likely to be philanthropic than their poorer contemporaries. Considering that those people rely far too heavily on supposed moral validation, it’s not too difficult to see how feigning homelessness at the right locations and at the right times can prove to be an incredibly lucrative venture. In fact, these types of people have already been drawn out into the open and exposed in some cases, be they regular people or supposed military veterans. Furthermore, even if one is known to truly be homeless, what good is a pity coin going to do them? It never actually addresses the root cause of the matter. Instead it allows the giver the ability to fulfill their daily faux-altruistic requirements and the recipient an all too minor and insignificant lash back against that which put them there in the first place. Existing in this grey matter of subjective morality, we continued briskly past each one of them, ignoring the signs and pleas, just as everyone else did. The suits marched toward their businesses, the hip young crowd ran toward the fashion outlets, and us tourists danced from one safe place to another. The Coalition for Homelessness estimates that a little over 60,000 people are homeless in New York City alone. Think about your surroundings right now. Can you imagine yourself, your spouse, your children, living by the nearest abandoned building? Scraping your food from the inside of a waste bin? Going to sleep, if you can, night after night wondering what the hell you’re going to do to get out of that mess that we impose on each other?

For me, the trip to New York City was both an entertaining and enlightening experience. One that constantly kept me in conflict with myself; to let myself enjoy the experience while simultaneously understanding that none of it wasn’t possible without money. I can’t imagine I would ever visit there on a whim, but it’s sure to go down in recorded history as an interesting place.

Header Image – New York Skyline (https://pixabay.com/en/new-york-city-skyline-building-14606/)

Snippet from “Junk Punch”

The following is a relatively raw snippet from my upcoming book “Junk Punch.”

 

For this, there is no training in either school or from the a posteriori position that enables one to say with conviction that they’re ready to be crippled in this way. For me, the experience was quite like this. The naivete that consumed my life while my mom was alive was not only a luxury I could no longer afford, but within it was nothing ever found about not just the outside world but how to recover the security that had been lost. Very quickly, however, certain things become manifestly clear about your new life.

First is that you’re obviously minus a parent. As startling as that may be in and of itself, I’ve already established that it alone is mostly insignificant. The only thing that rears its ugly head here is the realization that tomorrow, when you wake up, that person won’t be there. This isn’t unlike seeing them off for an extended leave, although I must confess that this epiphany may have resulted from the drawn-out winnowing process instead of making itself clear from the start. Regardless of how level headed one thinks they are in crisis situations, an adaptive process is required in some degree introspectively. Even the sharpest of minds will fall dull against this particular foe.

Second is the factor of perspective, to which it would appear that in most cases, but certainly not all, age disparity plays a more than significant role. Unfortunately, informing those fresh to the bereavement process of things like “time heals all wounds” or “you need to seek out closure” are about as meaningful functionally as a fire is to a burn victim. I will spare my full expose on it for the immediate moment and in lieu only say that time quite boorishly does nothing. Even as a function it’s honestly incapable of fulfilling such a task. As for closure, it will only ever work if one is prepared to accept within themselves a sort of multiple personality environment where the you prior to the event is no longer the same you afterward. This is in reality a method of assimilation, to which no one should be subject to professional psychiatric evaluation for. It is a default defensive mechanism and it is a required one. However, true closure is unattainable. No matter how long you wait, how many personas you develop, or how much you reflect and/or write about it, you realize that emotionally you are scarred for life. There is a distinct psychological factor here and I’ll touch on it momentarily.

“As one door closes, yet another opens.” This is true although the price to pay for the key is sometimes a fair bit too high. The sequence of opening and closing doors always occurs within the same hallway. When looking back, one sees reflections of one’s self within the snapshots contained between a set of two closed doors. Thus while you retain the same corporeal form, subject to biology, the evolution of the psyche from one gap to another will always change. Closure, in this way, is quite attainable but it is not the nature of the type that defines that delivered by the platitude. One has to take great care when engaging in the business of toggling doors. It is possible to not close doors at appropriate times or open them either too soon or too late. The caveat here though is that these particular doors can only be toggled by yourself and perspective is the only thing that will help you with navigation.

Third, and finally, is the realization that to some degree, one is faced with the Aristotelian concept of a tabula rasa. This may not be of effect on those who have reached sufficient age or who’s parents have lived to an acceptable age where the termination of life is, in a way, expected. Going back to the door analogy for one last moment, this phenomenon can be seen when one is ill equipped to open a door and does so prematurely or, in the relevant case, has the door blown open and is sucked in with the back draft. When an artist obtains an easel, they do in fact have some notion to what they intend to paint onto it. When a writer obtains a set of empty pages, they too have some concept of the words they wish to place down. In each of these examples, the person has some prior planning as to what exactly they’re going to do with their own blank slates. This goes back again to the preparatory stages mentioned before. Here is where having a lack of planning starts to reveal itself. A tabula rasa carries with it tremendous possibilities. However, it’s just as easy to discard it as it is to sit, paralyzed, and stare at it wondering who will make the first move between the two of you. This, dear reader, is what I found I was left with. A destroyed past and a blank slate for the future with absolutely no plan on what the hell to do with it.

Here I feel I must digress for a moment for if you have followed me so far then there must be an obvious logical gap. The training provided in one’s formative years, while not preparing one for the degree of emotional distress in a parental death, can indeed provide one with the tools to build upon said tabula rasa. There are still two unresolved issues here. First that the training is subjective to the society. Unless one is capable of refactoring their skills to a form as generic as possible, it is of no use to them elsewhere. This proves to be a problem when, spurred by ill-managed insurmountable grief, one becomes aimlessly migratory, in search of that special something. The second ties back to the emotional aspect. What the training cannot do is to functionally compel you to, in essence, begin the rebuilding effort. With the examples provided, it cannot make the artist paint or the writer write. The push against paralysis, induced by fear, is harder to accomplish than most realize.

This then leads to our next topic. If I had been so clearly emotionally destroyed, left with no direction whatsoever, had both my innocence and security taken away from me, been robbed of not just my mother but the life I had before and the future that included her, how in the hell did I manage to force myself to start figuring out how to create my own security?

Let’s start with the obvious matter which is to say that none of this, the things that have been discussed so far, was evident to me at the time. My philosophy and total understanding of the matter were quite absent from my mind. That is to say that there was no conscious effort toward rebuilding security at all. Everything that was done was done so in a shooting from the hip style; although that itself is not entirely accurate, it will suffice for now.

The reason for bringing this to light is because it’s an incredibly fair point, in fact one that I can attest to personally, to assert that in a case like this, one needs a little help regaining perspective. As I mentioned before, perspective is the key to both mitigation and forward momentum. Looking to the day she had died in the hospital, there were a great many things that could have been pivotal in facilitating the direction of the perspective. I will spare you the details but give instead those things that are distinct in this regard.

There was the palpable solemn chaos that was evident in all the persons present for my mom’s final diagnoses. It’s strange to think back now that even though we all shared the same orienting event/person, it wouldn’t be disingenuous to assert that there were still tangible degrees of separation between us. I can’t be quite sure if this was a result of the matter at hand, still very fresh, or if it were stemming from deep-rooted matters from years prior. Animosity, something to which no family is immune to, courses rather deeply in the veins of mine. With no time ever being the wrong time, now would have been as good as any to bring up, well, anything. I don’t recall anyone scratching the wounds open overtly, to which I’d like to credit common decency, but the idea that the chance was there wasn’t lost to me; death impacts us all in incredibly strange ways.

This feeling carried into the meeting room, where we had been handed the doctor’s assessment, something which I feel still is an area of opportunity for them. No one questioned the ability of his art, but the caveat during his here’s what we did speech, that being had we found her sooner she might have had a chance, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I can’t pretend to understand what went through my sibling’s minds. The moment of realization came when, standing in front of her bed, the overpowering stench of death singed my nostrils. This token of finality, the biological reminder of your natural shackles, leaves in its wake nothing pleasant; not to the scent but also not to the sight either.

Society is never too far behind, even in bereavement. For nearly immediately after the proclamation of death was announced, I was to be sequestered in a private room joined by the coroner, a requirement in drug-related deaths, and a representative from some organization whose name has been lost to me. She was there to take care of some matters regarding my mother’s compliance to be an organ donor. A task for which there were to be no spoils for her on account of the severe damage done to the organs from not just the drugs but also from the charcoal that had been pumped into her system in an effort to mitigate the cause. My consolation prize from her was a Memory Box. Inside was a heavy metal emblem that would have been seated inside her tombstone had she received one.

So there it was. The adjacent room contained the corpse of my mother and we were to sully on home with an organ donors tombstone headdress. Delivery of this verdict to my grandmother, who awaited at home for the return of her daughter and instead received a box made of recyclable material, was an education of a kind. All of this framed for me the very real aspect of life called fragility. It was in this, however, that I was able to find my perspective.

The following days were beyond trying as the world I’d been accustomed to rapidly deteriorated. It felt as if everything and everyone were on the brink and the outcomes, now in the future being evidently predictable, were so volatile then that each morning I made a cursory glance on the two remaining occupants just as a sanity check. But I always passed on that room.

I don’t recall in lucid detail how it transpired since it was a blur for most of it, but my youngest sister eventually did leave the house; it was to be a few years before I was to see her again. My grandmother and I held out on our own as best as we could, but her health condition coupled with my inability to find work at the time resulted in her departure as well. Before too long, it was just myself left there. Well, my pet parakeet and I to be exact. In a few short weeks, everything was entirely gone. All that remained was an empty shell of a house where not too long ago, there were four people commencing otherwise normal lives. To see the phantoms of this past seep from the pores of the walls was nauseating and I never was able to reconcile this to a degree of comfort.

One day before I left for Columbus, I mustered the courage to enter that room – the one I’d avoided. The one I’d hid from. The one I couldn’t even look at the doorknob comfortably for having invoked this ridiculously irrational fear of seeing it rotate with no hand guiding it. Standing in front of it, I inhaled deeply, more so than I’m sure Michael Phelps ever did, clasped and rotated the knob, and thrust myself inward. I know for sure I choked on the air. That door had been shut since the vultures of materialism had swooped down to descend upon the now master-less bounty that was just ripe for the picking. What was left was exactly the way it was the night she died – a Time Capsule. The dresser, bed, television, and night stand sat and waited, yearning to be used yet again. It was well beyond my grasp, or even the will of my person, to think of doing such a thing at the time. Collapsing instead on the floor against the wall, it was all I could do to take in the atmosphere around me. I didn’t emote, even as I felt all of the emotion rushing back into me. The memories of that night, the culmination of the weeks leading up to the departure I made at the very end, all rushed forth into my throat. That pinging feeling of having to swallow that ball back down was far more difficult that it needed to be.

In a way, this was a second form of finality. I imagined it being much like a photographer, who having been at once overcome by the landscape before them, captured the moment and from it created a postcard of profound beauty. This photograph, the last one I took of this time, has been locked within me ever since and to this day I can recall it vividly ad arbitrium. If one were looking to say that I’d found some kind of closure, this would perhaps be the most appropriate time to say that maybe I did. The settling of emotions pressed down within me to form the foundation for what I’d later understand as the start of the assimilation process. With one final glimpse and an incredibly deep breath, I rose from the floor and walked out the door, never to look back.

Haters: Sometimes They Really Don’t Want to Be You

“People hate you because they want to be you.” In so many words, this and phrases like it are uttered time and time again to the downtrodden, misrepresented, misunderstood, and supposedly unique persons. The phrases are thrown around in so many different syntactical permutations, each attempting to place varying sympathetic emphasis on the victim of the perceived indifference, and always intended to antagonize the perpetrator(s). The goal, invariably, is to fortify the self-esteem of the victim and to embolden them in remaining vigilant against nay-sayers from all perspectives so that they will continue to be the individuals that they are. Altruistically, all appears to be sound. The invoker of the phrase, if not the victim themselves, garners respect and adulation from the victim and perhaps from others, and is thus considered to be morally aligned with those who see this as such. The antagonist, left wilting away in their now obviously futile attempt of degradation, sulks back to the cave from whence they emerged and life carries on unabated.

There is something a tiny bit disingenuous about this assumed intent however. It is certainly true that there are persons who awake in the morning with the sole intent of making their peer’s lives as miserable as possible. Others will prey upon the perceptibly socially weak for only the deranged satisfaction that is to be derived from it (and of which only they themselves are capable of indulging in). For these people, where attempts at curbing their considerably disagreeable behavior either are derailed from the start and for all of their time or simply won’t emerge until far later in life (it is possible for one to learn the error of one’s ways), the psychological, and sometimes physical, barricade will need to be constant. Instruction and consistent enforcement of the intolerance for indifference should always be practiced regardless. Other times it is possible that a practitioner of bigotry is acting so out of the pretext of malicious propaganda; osmosis from family and social circles, assiduously preached misinformation by cornerstone figures in communities, and cultural slants that should really be going in the opposite direction just to name a few. These people can be dealt with in a different manner which attempts to bring them back from the brink and into moral favor. These are mistakes of their peers bubbling outward through them to which they cannot be blamed exclusively for (for their own actions, of course).

Now despite the misgivings about my approach to this topic, one thing should be made abundantly clear by now but I’ll do you the favor of spelling it out. In no way, at all, do I now or have ever in the past condoned or considered as a good idea any act of indifference or bigotry. In a considerably more plain way, bullying is not something I either associate myself with or think is tolerable. So then, what really is so disingenuous about the aforementioned phrases?

There is a subtle tone of irony lurking in the shadows of the phrases. While attempting to defend the individuality of the victim, it simultaneously alienates the individuality of the assailant and presupposes only a wanton masochistic chameleon-esque adaptation of the individual from the victim by the assailant. In an effort to reinforce and reaffirm the individual that is considered to be the victim, we assert by default a spiteful copy-and-paste attempt by the assailant as the only impetus for this and the reflection of this desire equates to nothing short of the oppression and vitriol which they practice so often. Imagine then how this sounds to you, when you consider a bully of this sort who wakes up in the morning: “I REALLY REALLY want to be just like John, in every way possible! In order to do that, and to emulate perfectly his individuality, I’ll be sure to cause him nothing but grief and use socially sensitive aspects to make fun of and torture him with!” That’s not to say that this sort of idiotic notion isn’t conceived at one point or another within a mind; it’s plausible that it would be. It’s also plausible, and far more obvious in fact, to imagine that in an attempt at emulation of an individual, one would be more likely to act or behave in accordance with the target of the emulation as is the case with ridiculous fanaticism embraced by us little people in the wake of celebrities. When considered in this way, it’s hardly a significant draw of the intellect to make this comparison. Having established that, the phrases almost turn on themselves. For they now decree that the bully, in a veil of such extreme obsessive fanaticism over their personal celebrity, that being the victim, wanting nothing more than to emulate perfectly the aspect of their individuality that is desired, they resort to extreme methods of abuse, punishment, and torture – none of which place them in a position to assimilate this so sought after trait.

The overarching ignorance here is that when invoked, phrases of these sort are literally and figuratively no less shallow than the acts of aggression to which they are intended to defend against. They do not address the questions of root cause; what were the environmental factors that together culminated into the mess that is the bully? In a similar note, what other environmental factors facilitate the notion that certain seemingly arbitrary traits about people are points of both isolation and desired attack? The obvious irony here is that in an effort to achieve and maintain individuality, one runs the risk of sometimes severe scrutiny for doing so – but why is this the case? Why does it just seem like bullies come out of the woodwork and people are consistently in a reactive state regarding them? At this juncture, the only purpose these phrases serve is to reaffirm the proliferation of personality and in an entirely unhealthy way.

No one doubts that in practice, bullies are quite real as is the damage that they inflict upon others; this alone warrants reaction to the immediate causality. This aspect shouldn’t ever be downplayed in the slightest. I myself have been subject to bullying of an extreme sort, resulting in physical violence, whilst my peers, pitiless, callous, and vicariously complicit through cowardice, stood idly by as if it were all just normal. “Oh he goes around punching everybody!” – a remark I can quite acutely recall from someone I can only assume had been a victim of this bully, and would have thought far less of this person if they weren’t. So yes, on a case-by-case basis we are and should be required to deal with it blow-for-blow. Simultaneously, and this parallelism should be marked quite carefully and distinctly, the root cause should always be considered and this falls well beyond the scope of immediate causality. A place where “They’re just jealous of you” carries with it about as much intellectual nourishment as piety does in any domain.

What then should we be looking for? How do we actually address the issue of bullying? These appear to be hard questions because frankly they are. However, when asked differently as How do you address the cultural blemishes that both foster and permit this behavior?, it becomes slightly easier to put into scope but nonetheless leaves massive hurdles that are in fact able to be vaulted. To get started in the right direction, one has to realize first that none of this behavior is genetic. No one person is genetically predetermined to exhibit violence of this sort. It is in fact the social environment in which the child grows and is continuously exposed to which begins to kindle this kind of behavior. Were they raised in an environment where reciprocity and positive mutual relations were pinnacle in their success? Or were they subject to competition for both basic and contrived human needs where the only order of the day was to simply be the best? These are none of them genetic in the slightest. You are not born with an innate understanding of Capitalist America, neither of Communist China, neither of tribal alignments. There is no innate desire to ascertain all power and accumulate all material possessions in a fashion that would make even the most fanatic of barbarians shutter in horror. You are human, all too human.  You are molded by your family, your friends, your society, your communities, your government – all attribute in some way to the result that is aged you. Do not for one second discount the supposedly trivial things for sometimes they are in fact the ones most likely to subvert the subconscious, thus placing you on an entirely different path.

Next we have to ask ourselves if the society that we participate in today is conducive to our well-being. Do we really think that the bullying and violence are not actually a byproduct of the stratification, hyper competition, and near-cancerous proliferation of personality propaganda combined? Statistical studies continuously show that certain areas of the U.S. are far more violent than others, indicating an uneven distribution of our so-called genetic predetermination. However, the same imbalance can be seen when these studies are applied in the scope of the world. Different cultures yield different persons. They’re shaped in much the same way as we are with regard to modality: family, friends, and communities. The difference is nearly strictly in that of perspective and what is considered as the prime predicate for the sane and pragmatic survival of the group. Do they feel that the only way to survive is to beat down all others in a game of perpetual conflict, simply to see who can piss further? Do they feel that egalitarian methods of sharing and open collaboration are the best ways to go? Isn’t it possible that maybe, just maybe, the arena in which we nurture our children in isn’t really the most advantageous for producing not only non-violent and open-minded persons but also happy ones?

The victim and the bully, much like everyone else in our society, is and has been formed in a way that makes them who they are. A confusion of supposed predeterminations with what are instead quite malleable environmental factors leads us to consistently look in the wrong direction for solutions. For to look at the true causality would be to put to scrutiny the very same social system that we live in and most are unfortunately unwilling to take that step for one reason or another; most of which are ineffective as legitimate excuses. Ensuring that not only our children but us adults as well know that open communication, collaboration, and plausible rationality is critical. Competition, contrived scarcity, over-inflation of X Politics, blind servility – these are none of them useful when helping to educate and propagate equality and pure altruism.

So no, haters sometimes really don’t want to be you. And you shouldn’t aspire to reciprocate that even in defense.

Knave

Round now the table were those whom we trust
Decide the fate of the knave; we insist they must
Lost all he did when the storm came and went
Rebuilding on eggshells was his energy misspent
Odd it should be that he now stand trial
When it was he alone who avoided their guile
Streets run full with the sad, cold and hungry
A sign on their chests reads “I will work for money”
Law backs turned on the crimes of the state
Liberate you we will by propagation of hate
Scream for yourself, but never for the many
Prosper on alone; easier controlled to the last penny
Feed up the rich and feed little to the poor
Make mark of and kill alike those who ask for more
A shepherd to the sheep are they now to we
And a blindfold used that we may not see
The knave has the courage to look at the fog
And to question the mist; much more than a cog
Question it all, leave none with no answer
Purge from the world the crux of man-made cancer
But the sheep do not like it, he who sets free
The grass here is greener – eat more and you’ll see
Pile atop the knave the seed sown of rhetoric
Keep him just alike; plain, stupid and dysphoric
When at last had his crimes become too great
Heretic! cried the sheep – Burn him! Be that his fate!
They spit and moaned and hissed and snared
He said List to me, please! You’re all just scared!
At podium he stood as sentence passed down
On his face they had painted the dress of a clown
Of high treason, they all say, you are now convicted
To speak as you do is no longer permitted
What say you, knave, who are soon to perish
Speak now or speak not – your death we will furnish
Not a word was let go from the edge of his lips
And off he was led; to his back they loosed the whips
A passerby, female, he saw, knelt over and wept
Why do this? he asked, the charity I cannot accept
Of wisdom and courage have I partaken of too
Please, of my own, may I not weep for you?
Aye, said the knave who scolded his kin
You can cry for me, but you should cry for the sin
Cry for the act and cry for the hold
O’er all of your life that you were at once sold

Skywhale

The grey clouds washed above her head producing the lightest hints of rain.
She laid back into the cold earth to take fill of the pour.
The articles of clothing soon became as one with the water that fell.
Darker were the shades of colour that enveloped her.
Her mouth slides open and tongue extended; tasting the freshly made earthen tears.
The battered song of exhalement made real by the mist.
Too full did her mouth become and yet close it she did not.
The water overflowed and fell down her cheeks.
Staring into the grey ocean before her, traveling through the liquid stars;
Tensed muscles relaxed and broken dam let water flow.
Into her lungs did water replace air.
A gasp or two for the oil of life did she try for by reflex.
Settle yourself, she said, as the life water returns you to whence you came.
Tides receded and waves came no more.
Into the sea she went as she intended to from the start.
Swimming upward through a rush of canopy and light.
A momentary release of gravity revealed the weightlessness of the world above.
To her eyes were painted a most sensuous landscape.
Hills of vapor concealing rays of effervescent light.
Dancing aloft the gales were the trails of cloud.
At one point she thought she could touch them, eat them.
One reminded her of a shoe. The other of a train.
Another looked like a cat. Yet another looked like a brain.
She waited until the stars shone brightly through the thick of the night.
Their all too dim glimmer reminded her of their height.
Arranged in a way that made puzzlers go mad,
Diagramming them all made her feel far too sad.
Nay, she said, this is the one who should have feet!
And this is the one who shall sit a kings seat!
Lives of their own did she start to create
Leaving not a one subject to debate
These too became the friends of she
A skywhale for all eternity is what was meant to be
For time and time again was this all there was
Friends who had not met but were already spoken for
As happy as she tried to make the situation
Inside baked a swell, a yearning, for more
Fly higher, she cried, I want to go higher.
Higher into the sea of black; so that I may see the friends of old
Preparation, she said, prepare for the journey ahead
Foodstuffs and drinks did she not need
Not for that of a skywhale like her
But to grow again wings of a creature not yet imagined
And sprout them she did
And grow again the lungs of a creature not yet imagined
And grow them she did
And grow again the teeth of a creature not yet imagined
And grow them she did
Away sailed she, the skywhale of old
Off to a new sea of old friends
When arrived she was not as prepared as she thought
To distance she was baffled
To constitution she was awed
To time she was ignorant
But forward on did she sail
Eventually she met a friend from some years ago – the king
How are you king? It’s finally good to meet you!
As I am to you skywhale. Tell me why have you come?
What do you mean why? A face to a name do I seek!
A voice to an imagination must I connect!
To those ends I understand, dearest skywhale.
Sadly, I have neither this face or voice to which you desperately seek.
Surely you jest for you speak to me now, intelligently too!
Aye, I do but not with the voice you expect and not from the person too
Why? What are you then?
The rain, skywhale. The water and the mist. The vapor and the cloud.
Complete the voice, skywhale. Complete the person. Complete the king.
Eat of the stars did she, one after another, as commanded.
Some tasted like berries, others like melon.
All but the last star in the sky had been consumed
To which she looked on with distress, unable to eat another morsel
Why hesitate? asked king, why stop now?
I can’t, said she, there’s no more room
In where?
In me
In your stomach?
Yes
It doesn’t exist
Then why do I feel full?
Because you really are, or at least almost are
I’ll get sick
Nourishment can’t make one ill
There won’t be anything left!
That’s not true; move forward and take of the last bite
And bite she finally did against all rejecting reflexes
When at last, she opened her eyes.
Of air did her lungs fill once more
To expel the weight of the skywhale
Out came the water, out came the stars,
out came the crown of a king from afar
A shadow loomed above in the shape of a ship
One with the wings of a bird
Standing again, with her own two feet, she rose to the occasion
Waving her hands to signal it down, the time had finally come
The one hand greeted her saviours, the other clinched a blade