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“Horrible Mistake”

Jacques Tourneur directed some cult classics under the producer tutelage of Val Lewton in the early 40s, “The Cat People” and “I Walked With a Zombie.” And in 1957 he did   “Night of the Demon”/ “Curse of the Demon,” (UK) which I saw with my parents. My father was surprised and let down that Dana Andrews was in this horror picture as if had chosen to be mired in B movies. Amazing what one dredges up from childhood.

Andrews had been in “The Best Years of our lIves,”1946,  “Laura,” 1944, “The Ox-Bow Incident,”1943,  and “A Walk in the Sun,” 1946, most of these A films. Tourneur and Andrews also worked together in “Canyon Passage,”made in 1946 with Susan Hayward, Brian Donlevy (memorable in “Beau Geste” as a vicious sergeant, 1939)  Ward Bond and a very young Lloyd Bridges. It was a standard B flic in which Hoagy Carmichael introduced “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” a rather homely man who often tinkled the ivories in several movies and was the composer of the classic “Stardust,”and “In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening.”

“Canyon Passage” was nothing much as a film but directorially it did have one or two nuances, especially the executing of a convicted murderer off screen, subtle for an oater. Why I recall this film which I have seen off and on within the last few years is a memorable line spoken in a bar by Onslow Stevens, a dry and durable actor of the 30s and 40s. It is delivered off hand which makes it more telling and while the actor’s back is to the camera, thus even more effective.

When Andrews confronts the gambler Stevens about all the loses his friend Donlevy has incurred at his poker table, Stevens is also upset at that also but as he rises he says, “Mankind is a horrible mistake.” I don’t recall a memorable line from “Ben Hur,” “Spartacus,” “El Cid,” or “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” I wonder how the writer and director in 1946 got away with this noirish comment. In fact after the war up to the mid 50s were the years of film noir, much of it was a response to what the war had taught us about humanity. Tourneur directed the classic film noir “Out of the Past.” And Welles made the greatest noirish B movie, “Touch of Evil,” in which there are several memorable lines by Marlene Dietrich (Welles’ friend and assistant in the magic act he used to entertain troops during the war) in a cameo as a madam.

In some way, in some fashion, the line about “horrible mistake” resonates in me, fits suitably into my general frame of mind. I relish that the suits at the front office missed that one acidic if not brilliant accusation about the species — its innate failings. As I look at the debates and observe how one is condemned for showing feelings (Biden vs. Boy Scout), I see how nauseating and politically correct we are. Watching that blustering grotesquerie, Russ Limbaugh, blame and castigate Martha Raddatz, as the moderator for limiting Ryan’s performance, I conclude that we are indeed a horrible mistake.

If a truth is accepted after denial, projection and other psychological human defenses are let down or worked through, we come upon a realization or an awareness that we give large measure of credence to. For me mankind is not as much a species, very much the animal. For me it is as profound a truth as it is for a die-in-the-wool Catholic that Christ was the son of God–but he wasn’t, nor did he rise, fitting mottled mythological musings for an animal.

Recently I was labeled, in essence, by some old cocker about my age, a curmudgeon. He could not grasp my comments about authority or rules and regulations, for they spoke of disgruntlement, which is not allowed. For me it was my ongoing battle with authority. As I walked out of the place in which he was a volunteer, he muttered words, in effect, wondering how I could exist as a person and how my wife could endure the bleakness of my soul. Ah, to be judged by a volunteer.

He went so far as to show me a plaque on his desk ostensibly to be used with misfits such as myself. It had a homily about accepting old age which was an Irish proverb and I had the temerity to tell him that of all the proverbs he could give me, Irish ones were near the bottom, and I also felt but did not say that if your insight came down to a Hallmark sentiment how pathetic you were. It is the misbegotten belief  that if you shove a bible into one’s hands you will find the truth. Hogwash! Books are not life. Words are not life. Learn how to live moment to moment free of other people’s convictions and musings and then you will be free.

Jane and I looked at one another. He didn’t get it, never did, never would, for his life, if I may judge, was spent as an adherent. And because he didn’t get it, he labeled me. I became a “horrible mistake” as a person.

Again I am nauseated by culture, any culture, and especially sickened by this one, in which a political wife speaks of her husband in an attempt to “humanize” him to the populous. Now that is real resurrection of the dead! If he ain’t a human being, why run this cadaver for office and why must we endure such a pathetic plea. And little Sarah that Todd knocked up in the backseat in his truck as her fanny wriggled uncomfortably on a spent Coke can, this vagina on stilts, is off to the side yelling at Romney to pull the trigger.

What is one to do if one sees all this cant? It is the perennial question — rush off like Thoreau to the woods for a respite, not bad if you are single and have the time for it; go out and try to change the system (never works, only leads to reform which leads to more structured recalcitrance until the next reform is required — the history of revolutions teaches us this; start with Condorcet and end with Robespierre and then Napoleon.) Human stupidity is a repetition compulsion.

After decades of living I have reached some insight and thus some concluding propositions. I conclude that all I can do is be free of the bullshit, to cleanse myself on a daily basis; that I am surrounded by human frailities, gross behaviors and lunacies that assault me on all sides. It is a struggle to be free of religion, of others in particular, of parents, of the state, the government and of one’s own blindednesses. By the by, isn’t that the curriculum of a meaningful education?

I have also concluded that it is a losing proposition to sustain, yet I continue to do so, for in a way I too, for others,  am a “horrible mistake.”

 

 

 

I Am Planning My Escape

While Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, dance for the media and he practices “reparative psychotherapy” on gays which the American Psychiatric Association has declared disreputable and of no worth and indeed, might create confusion and conflict additionally on unwilling clients; while Marcus himself sends out latent homosexual vibes himself, one can only imagine why he has devoted something of his life to this nonsense, should I say projection, displacement and inner self-contempt; and one more “while” –In a famous letter (1920s) from a mother of a homosexual asking Freud what was she do for she was at a loss, Freud wrote back urging her to embrace her son, to love him dearly and to accept him as he was. Clearly Marcus Bachmann has not read the DSM IV or V in which homosexuality is not listed, if I am correct, as a neurosis, psychosis or anything such as a personality disorder. Marcus Bachman belongs in a Boschian painting, near the bottom, often where a pitchfork is shoved up a tortured creature’s ass. Finally, picking up a recent issue of National Geographic with ape-man pictures in it and a skull of a woman-like creature dating to 4 million years ago, I wondered how the Bachmanns deal with evolution. Sickening to hear or imagine their responses, for they are the trash we in this country feel competent to run for office. Shame on us!

If you love your country more than you love yourself, that is, you sustain an idol of the mind and you are conditioned beyond belief, stop reading now, for I am going to give the specific reasons why I am planning my escape. I first got turned off when McGovern ran against Nixon, and that foul creature won. I could not believe it. Having grown up under Eisenhower during the Fifties,  I had a real good bead on that joweled-psychotic. A whole generation of non-readers had no idea what they were voting for. After that, I knew my masses well and didn’t vote for many years after. I could have predicted Watergate, character is destiny, the Greeks knew so well. The last decade or so has been abysmal politically. I never thought that a major TV station would become an ally of a political point of view, Fox News; when I first watched  it I caught myself challenging almost everything said, for the news was not “fair and balanced,” that insane mantra, but biased, often subtly so. I grew up with Murrow, Sevaried, Brinkley and I was left to decide what to do with the news. And there is that evangelistic Glen Beck, crypto -racist, deranged human being, maudlin, stuffed with treacle, who pandered to America’s worst biases, stuffing his Mormon cheese into the collective olive.

And there is Palin, that grotesque, phantasmagoric entity spewed from the head of John McCain who is the idealized pinhead housewife of America, raising the dysfunctional family to greater heights, with her dull Ahab fisherman spouse and Bristol, who recently penned a book about her vagina monologues. Have you noticed at rallys with her special needs child beneath her left arm as if a ragamuffin child, an emblem of how adversity for her and her child can be overcome, how she can mother and be a politician and be split in so many ways and remain whole, the foisted American dream that some women think they have to live up to, is beyond parody. Screwed into the cortex of Bachmann and Palin is an unwavering spinal rigidity which  comes from seeing life simplistically, without shades of gray or nuance, proof that a college education in this country is the equivalent of a junior high school degree.  Hold on, I am enjoying this rant, for it is the basis of my considering leaving the States. I am prepared to go to any sinkhole outside of this country so that I can best see us for what we really are, although I have a good handle on it now. I will not bother to answer questions about this idea of mine, for they will be as conditioned by being an American more than by anything else. I am not an American, nor am I  un-American, for these are not issues for me. I owe more to my heritage than I do to nationalism. American exceptionalism, to use the jargon, is defecating all over this globe. Have you noticed?

As I mentally spin the globe, Costa Rica came to mind, as well as Belize, Panama, Ecuador, and Roatan. Checking out some stats about each country, Costa Rica looms large. I could not have Medicare there but if you become a resident you can get health care; the doctors are just as good or bad as they are here. The government is reasonably democratic which is what ours is as well; there is no extant democracy in this world at this time that I can see. Perhaps Costa Rica in mind rests on my own personal and idiosyncratic contention that this culture has become unbearable for me. I don’t flee to Costa Rica for safety; I flee America for it disfigures and appalls my own personal sensibility of what a culture should be. I have an affinity for life. i do not have an affinity for this or that countrty. I live once. So do you, reader. Think on that. So when and if I get it all together, I will gear up and vamoose.

The bromides we have in this country to deal with disaffection are legendary. We have lost, if we ever had, the capacity or the willingness to look at  ourselves in the mirror and to correct, remedy or change the lingering maladies we suffer from. The essential character trait of this nation, as I see it now, is a moral blindness to how we affect the world, other nations and the very planet itself. So wrapped in the stars and stripes are we, that we are blinded by our grandiosity. If a man or woman begs for change in the street, he is viewed as lacking character and the poor schnook probably believes this rap. In other words, poverty as in Dickens’ time, is a character fault. And the poor buy into it. And when things get really tough, the capitalistic slime comes out and offers workshops on how to market yourself. We are experts on marketing ourselves. Oh, yeah, what an achievement! In the fifties I would be called a pinko or commie. And what would you call me now? Un-American. Just a bromide. We are brilliant at making the disenfranchised despise themselves. Hoffer argued that the role of the undesirables in this country was essential for its greatness. That has long since passed.

We are a war-mongering country and as outlandish as that charge may be, if you pause and consider where we are in the name of “democracy,” you detect a glimmer of reason to this argument — we are stationed all over the planet; we are involved in two wars and our defense budget is the largest in the world. We are a bloated empire with a bloated ruling class which is now the classic cliche of the 2%. The fiscal crisis was the well-to-do, the ultra wealthy fucking this nation and being rewarded as a consequence. Tell me, who has been charged with crimes against the American people in the years since the crisis?

I am an exile in my own country, a stranger in a strange land, and America has become a very strange land. A writer, a decent writer, a serious person, has to have in some measure a sense of disaffection, of not belonging, of looking in from the outside. In short, an exile. I can spend my self-exile in Costa Rica because here, in America, I don’t belong any longer. And what does it matter except to me how I see my world. Judge me if you choose, and how American that is.

 

Waiting for Messages from the Unconscious

I am sitting here, waiting, registering myself, thinking, wondering what will ooze forth. Lately I’ve been having the uncomfortable sense that many of my stories sent to online literary editors, probably from ages 25 to 45, may not relate to the kind of stories I write. It is a false fear, I know, because the bones of a good story cross over generations. I have come to that remarkable point in my life in which I am seemingly superannuated.

Here I am with all kinds of skills and talents which are “worthless” in this society, grounded in capitalism and the values thereof. Jane’s ex made millions providing the edgings that go around tables, really ridiculous, and yet this provider of laminates, whatever, is part of the mighty course of this country’s business. I cannot fathom — nor could he fathom me — what the production of that requisite societal shit does to one’s mind, “soul” or spirit. The effort put into some kinds of business just fatigues me, the very thought of it creates a moral nausea. The concept, the idea of equity is a mental quicksilver and has no place in this writing, for fairness, justice, et al is as random as the the whirl of planets in their voids. It simply is what is, but I can comment on that because as a writer that is my task, my laminate “business.”

If you are awake or aware and you are retired as we know it in this country, a cultural artifact of significance, what do you do with your time, or your time left? It is a question that should be asked when first consciousness dawned in your noggin ( recall the Wagnerian sounds in “Space Odyssey: 2001″) I have more time than ever to cogitate over this day and the day after, of how best to “use” the time or the time left to me, as I live in this temporary husk — on loan, by the way — that has been and is being ravished by wear and tear. After all, how long can one’s innards endure stress, digestion, arterial plaque, the accruing deposits of bad cholesterol, the heart pumping for year after year, etc. It is and has always been this needling question for me, at least for as long as I can remember, of what to do with existence, for that is what I am asking.  The only man who I have learned about and who I have read who apparently wrestled with this in a rational way for decades and spoke to all the issues that beset me and you was Krishnamurti. I cannot describe or assess him other than say one must read what he has to say and yet that is not enough for me. I will die in my own little Venetian glass bottle thrown upon the sands of time.

With issues like this in mind or with concerns I take seriously, I moved early into writing which is just a mere expression of my character. You can see why business in itself entirely bores me. I am figured to work out my life in other ways. That genetic  reptilian part of my brain is soused in consciousness, reminding me how a good and decent tomato or cucumber can easily be soured in brine to make something else. I feel that awareness or consciousness is much like taking a pickle from a jar, soaking wet, dripping  and how one must shake it a bit to get at the total savoriness of it all. No matter how we are aware we still reek of the reptile, all instinct and aimless instinctual discharge.

Here I am with perhaps 10 years or so to live, or to die, besotted with the same questions that have pickled me in brine for decades. I believe we flower, wither and die without any sense of who we are, much like the flower in the field. Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are throwaway existences who see so far and yet so little and aimlessly live but that is their choice if they are cognizant of realistic choice rather than the rush of drugs. Humorously society now tells me to “live,” to enjoy retirement which is appalling for society is nothing more than another abstraction or “idea” concocted by this culture at this time; entire companies and medical plans are obsessed with this concept. Capitalism in no way is concerned and never was concerned about the moral welfare of human beings, for it is rooted in the abstraction of money, its making, its use, its entrepreneurial aspects. After all these years, I would like to proclaim a national day of rest which means a day of rest from ideas and any conceptualizing at all, for ideas gave us religion, systems, castes, slavery, anti-semitism, conditioning, cultural anomalies and monstrosities such as the Inquisition and colonialism. Ideas have spawned Beck, Palin, Bachman, Hannity, O’Reilly, Cavuto, Laura Ingraham, the cultural pus of our present day America. Everything ever written or said about masturbation is the ejaculation that comes from ideas about it. Americans love the mind/body split.

And so like the little mouse with his very little piece of cheese I struggle to nibble away at my existence in ways that go beyond mere survival or struggle. I have not been successful. My failures are in all my writings. It is the task I willingly self-assign myself, and I will go to my grave nibbling at whatever intention I can find for myself. It may be as wasteful as designing another laminate for the kitchen island.

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