“To be, or not to be– That is the question.”
As this famous phrase spoken by Prince Hamlet was, in fact, spoken by Hamlet, a man, and not by Ophelia, a woman, there was only one (solitary) question. Were Ophelia to have asked the question, it would have been followed by several other questions, dozens of questions, swooping in from darkened skies like leather-winged harpies, and then shadowed by hundreds more, each spawning crawling legions of new questions, and each of those, eyeless, clawed and fanged, tugging at the puffy trousers that Hamlet wore like sunken-faced starving, mutant orphans. It’s no wonder he was considering offing himself.
In fact, and I may be breaking the ‘man code’ in confessing this publicly if any women might happen to read this, but many men consider ending it. For instance, when shopping for tools in the hardware store, we might be seen thumping a hammer’s head into the palm of our hand. To a female onlooker, we’re considering its multiple uses, its utility in building new things, or in the fixing the broken things that we’ve been asked numerous times to fix. But any male onlooker knows– we’re also testing its suitability to render ourselves unconscious if the questions should start, or resume, or increase in velocity. During particularly inquisitive durations with one’s significant other, many a man has asked himself the same (solitary) question.
“To be, or not to be? ..and maybe I need a bigger hammer.”
History tells us that Van Gogh cut off his ear to give to a prostitute, a twisted gift of a love, limitless. We men know better. He was hoping she’d keep asking questions into his abandoned ear, unaware that he’d slipped away on tiptoes to a quiet hillside to finally get some painting done. I’m betting she figured out the ruse quickly and then hunted him down when he failed to nod, or to answer. This, of course, resulted in more questions. Still, it was worth a try, and someone had to go first. Now the rest of us men know that even dismemberment doesn’t help, and we won’t bother trying that one. Thanks, Vinny.
Some lesser-known historical texts have also speculated that without an ear, Vincent simply couldn’t hear the questions anymore. Perhaps DaVinci wasn’t the only genius of the past millennium.
Now, men have questions too; we’ve a natural curiosity– within the limits of our universe of thought, though these are questions of a different sort.
“Why won’t this damned lawnmower start?”
“Who invented grass, anyway, and why weren’t they shot?”
“What the hell is wrong with the Phillies this season?”
“Did you pick up some more beer, lovey-dear?”
These are questions that don’t really require answers, except the beer question, and in fact, like most questions, are better left unanswered. We didn’t really want to mow the lawn anyway. Now we can pop the top on a cold one instead, sit on the couch, and bitch about those miserable Phillies as they miss the catch, both at first and at home plate, up on the wide screen– at least until the real questions start again.
Not only do we men not have many questions, we also don’t have many answers. More accurately, we don’t have the right answers, or answers that are clearly understood. Over hundreds of centuries, our gender has learned that no answer we might provide, no matter how thoughtful or well-articulated, and not even if we use colorful charts or Power-Point presentations, nor if we utilize emphatic gesticulations, is ever accepted. So, we have our ways of avoiding answering altogether. It’s a losing game to do otherwise. Much like the hare, camouflaged, hides in the brush from the hawk, as she circles hungrily overhead, we have learned to evade the gleaming-black-talon questions asked of us. It’s a knowledge passed down in our genes, like the instinct to protect our delicate testicles. We are simply born knowing of risk and vulnerability, and the first strike to the groin, no matter how slight, or the first question volleyed, is a sage reminder that primal wisdom should not be ignored, nor questioned.
We’ve developed various strategies for avoiding answers, knowing that each answer given will only bring more questions. Though some strategies have proven better than others, which one to employ at which time really depends on the severity and context of the situation.
We can, like Vincent, or Beethoven, just pretend not to hear. This, unless really missing an ear, or truly deaf, won’t work for long, and can only be used effectively in situations where it won’t be challenged, like in public, but that’s a big maybe. The hope here is that the question will be forgotten, drifting off, gray and forsaken, to the place where questions go to die. Again, this doesn’t usually work. Questions, like regrets, are immortals.
In some situations, we can utilize the ’emergency contingency’. This strategy, when cornered by questions pointed at the throat and threatening our tender loins like shining spears, is to invent an emergency. For instance, screaming, “Fire! Fire! Run for your lives!!” and then fleeing the area. Being able to run for long distances is imperative before trying this. There’s nothing worse than being caught crawling at the end of the driveway to a house which is, decidedly, not on fire, left panting, clutching your stabbing-pain chest, and then still being questioned anyway as you lay there, likely dying. It’s been noted that, assuming you make it past the driveway, this one works best if you have no intention of ever returning.
In lieu of any other strategy that is 100% effective, most men play dumb. This is an art, not a fact. We act as cretins, not because we are cretins, but because it works. If we feel a question coming on, or if we see a full infantry division of them coming over the hill, bloody bayonets raised, we can easily circumvent the situation by doing something cretinous, like belching loudly, passing gas audibly, or scratching ourselves whilst making satisfied, bestial, groaning sounds. No woman alive, or any ever having been alive previously, has ever wanted to stay around while any of the above was going on. If all three are performed simultaneously in a trifecta of audacious symphony, one can expect a few hours of ‘quiet time’ while she goes out shopping. Hey, maybe the game is on.
“Where are my pantyhose, Mary?” I hollered across the house to the fiery redhead who’d be my wife, if I’d the balls to marry her.
I continued flinging things in a fevered search, waiting for a reply. She never answers when I holler, and doesn’t come when called, but she knows a trick or two, and on Friday nights, if I’m lucky, she makes me howl at the moon.
A life of crime ain’t always easy, but we get by.
“Where’s my pistol? I can’t rob anyone without a pistol. Am I supposed to point my dick at them?”
“No, that’s too small.” she said.
“Oh, you’re funny. I know I left it right here.”
“If it was up your ass, you’d know where it was.”
“I already checked there, lovey-doll.”
“Oh? Then you probably found your brains too.”
I didn’t bother to respond. There’s no way to win, and besides, it was Friday evening. I didn’t want to take any chances. She might get mad, and not do that thing she does so well; I was feeling frisky, and the full moon was due.
“Here!” she said, handing me a set of her lacy panties fresh off the clothesline. They were still damp. “Put these over your head.”
“I still need a pistol.”
She handed me a toy gun left behind by a kid we’d kidnapped for ransom a while back. The little pecker had drawn dick and ball pictures all over the walls I’d just painted. He kicked, and bit, and spit, and called me names. Finally, I took him back for free. I didn’t even stop the car to let him out. I just pushed him and watched him bounce into his driveway in the cracked rear view.
“That’ll do.” I said, agreeably, “Thank you, honeybee.”
I sped off into the evening, headed for the liquor store. In the lot, I put the panties over my head, backwards. Peering through the lace-flower ass, the world became silky silhouettes.
The Oriental clerk laughed when I walked through the door, toy gun pointed, and stumbling, nearly blind with lacy panties on my head. Then he karate chopped me. I never saw it coming.
When I came to, Mary was bailing me out of jail. She looked angry. The moon had already fallen, and Friday night was gone. I howled anyway, and she slugged me, hard.
Life needs volume controls. If you’ve ever had an eight year old, been near an eight year old, or been an eight year old, yourself, you know exactly what I mean. I’ve tried the TV remote, mashing the button, repeatedly, while pointing its blinking red light at the boy, then mashing the button harder, and harder, all to no avail.
He just shouted, “WHATCHA DOING, DAD?”
He shouts everything he says.
On bath night, I checked his back for a volume knob of some sort, or maybe a mute button, whilst he roared, loudly, like a bubble-covered Spinosaurus. No such utility was found. The acoustic quality of Ceramic Tile and Formica bathrooms is stunningly impressive.
It doesn’t seem possible that a person of a mere four feet in height could achieve such earsplitting volumes. Every thought I might dare to pursue does, indeed, need to be pursued as it flees in terror from the piercingly loud siren sounds, stepping on pointy, green army men as it runs, tripping over motion-activated robots, which whir to life, beeping, and making Zap-Zap laser sounds, my fleeing thoughts looking back only to urgently ask, ”What the fuck was THAT?!”
Any volume setting above “6” on the television causes male pattern baldness in men over the age of 40. It’s been documented. The only exceptions to be made are for Batman movies, because Batman whispers a lot. As the boy reaches for the three remotes required to operate a modern television, each with 50 small, rubber buttons, whose intended purpose is marked in small, white print which is only visible by powerful electron microscope, or by eight year old children, who ignore all but the volume-up button, I ask him, remindingly, what the maximum volume setting should be.
“Six, Dad.” He responds, in oddly quiet tone.
As yellow cartoon characters bounce and jiggle, like lemon Jello, the volume creeps up, shaken, as the TV, itself, begins to jump around on the stand. The windows rattle, and my old, deaf dogs begin to bark, an insistent, staccato, canine inquiry, demanding to know, ”What the fuck was THAT?!”
Tonight, he’s at a sleepover– 6 or 7 eight year olds, are making the noise of 100, but they are doing it elsewhere. It sure is quiet around here, strangely quiet. I kick at a toy dinosaur, gently, just to hear it roar, like the boy does. The batteries are dead.
Holy shit this is old. He’s 11 now. Still loud tho..
I came upon the good fortune to court a lovely redhead.
“Let’s have coffee and krimpets at three”, she said.
I replied, “Three is a splendid time for our date. If I spread two and four wide, thereupon, I shall find three, laying juicily in wait– a target in which to thrust arrow deep, I shan’t be late! This date, I shall keep!”
She said, “Loose is your screw. Let’s make it two.”
Imagine my surprise, as with two fingers splayed wide, she poked both my eyes!
Ouch-Ouch! What a grouch!
Gents, don’t think women to be smitten by flowery words. I’m now of the opinion that poetry is for the birds.
To hazard a guess, I was drinking when I wrote this.
“You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.”
I eat the red jellybeans first. After all the red jellybeans have been greedily devoured, even if small children must be shoved aside or tricked to secure them all, I then seek the red-derived jellybeans, the pinks, and the purples. Once the bounty of red, pink, and purple jellybeans has been exhausted, I lose interest rapidly. I might revisit the bowl periodically, in passing, to poke around and see if any new jellybeans of my preferred colors have spawned overnight. I might even eat an orange one, but I always regret the decision afterward. I feel that I’ve settled for less than what I wanted, less than I’d deserved, and the bitter aftertaste of self-loathing lingers.
I never, and I do mean never, eat the white or the black jellybeans. I suspect they were invented as a practical joke to make children, and adults who have forgotten how bad they taste, make funny faces. The green jellybean exists for the sole purpose of being shot out of one’s nostrils. Both nostrils at once earns extra points. Of course, accuracy is important as well. There’s art in precision. Green jellybeans should not be eaten before, or after, nostril-shooting. I’ve no idea why the other colors exist. Perhaps the were developed just so that the children will try some, deciding they don’t like jellybeans, and then leave the bowl alone so that distinguishing adults like myself can eat the red ones without any further interference, discussion, or pesky pleas to share.
I’m not sure what all this says about my character, or why Ronald Reagan thought jellybean eating methodology had any bearing on anything at all. Jellybeans, as good or as bad as they might be, are no metaphor for life. Though life may be both sweet and sticky at times, or eventually it seems, lethal, that does not equate to wad of hastily swallowed jellybeans lodged in one’s throat whilst two green jellybeans clog the nostrils. Life will kill us with or without jellybean asphyxiation.
Does it then speak to our gluttony? Our generosity? Scram, kid. The red ones are mine. Does it speak to our discerning taste? Our ability to write lengthy prose about jellybeans?
Maybe Reagan was already going over the deep end when he fired this arrow of wit into the crowd.
Maybe Reagan mixed the white and black jellybeans and was suffering green-smoke-filled hallucinations as a result of ingesting the noxious concoction.
Maybe there’s still a red one left. I’m going to go check.
I blame Lauren for this post. I was just sitting here watching Adele sing love songs to me on the TV but Lauren INSISTED that I post this instead.
the gas bill is due
I mail them a sad haiku
burning bills give warmth
Writing is just talking. There’s nothing to it, really. We all talk, at least sometimes. We all have something to say, at least sometimes. To take it further, we all have something interesting to say, at least once in a while. The rest of the times might just be our own silence, which is just as necessary. If we don’t ever stop talking long enough to listen, to take in new perspectives, forming new thoughts of the mixture, or just to experience, then we don’t really have much new to say, or to write, because writing is just talking.
Some might disagree that writing is just talking. I’ve proposed the simple truism before in conversation, and have even met violent opposition to the notion. I’d say it, casually, just talking like I am now, and then be verbally thumped on the head with a rolling pin. Truth, though evolving, is better understood through repeated example, so I’d hold my ground, perhaps suggesting it with different phrasing; talking is really writing. I’ve now several lumps and dents on my skull, but I remain undeterred, and I’ve also come to learn over the years that the truth is often painful.
When talking, unless you’re Shakespeare, we talk in prose. We might break things up into half sentences, or single words, mere bestial grunts in some cases, or barbaric yawps in the case of Walt Whitman– and that of my Uncle Louie, now institutionalized and kept sedated. We break all the writing rules that had been scribbled on the blackboard by our jiggling-posterior teachers. And that’s okay. Writing is still just talking, and talking is writing as well.
We don’t, however, unless Shakespeare, talk in poetry. It’s an oddity, but it’s the way many of us here first choose to communicate, to talk, with our writing. We write poems. Were we to encounter someone talking in poetry in our daily interactions, we might be tempted to thump this person on the head with a rolling pin. Clearly, the poor fucker is malfunctioning. A good kick might help as well, like when the Buick is only running on five cylinders instead of six, as expected. It’s for their own good, and borne of our general love for humanity. Love is often painful too.
What of these poems? What of these peculiar utterances that we offer as communication? If writing is talking, and nobody talks in poetry, then what the hell is it? If writing is talking, would poetry then be our unintelligible morning mumblings? The insane echoing shrieks and barbaric yawps of lunacy? Some might suggest that poetry is the prophetic wisdom of the soul. Let’s not get carried away. Most of us are nitwits, anyone reading this to be excluded from the generalization, of course, though I will, in fairness, include myself. I’ve much to learn.
My dog often barks at shadows. I’m just as likely to write a poem about that as about any other topic, finding some poignancy in staccato-yapping futility, and half-smile joy in its simple amusement. The meaning of a poem might not be clear to all, and that’s okay. I wrote it, and it isn’t necessary that the world understand or be moved by it, any more than I would expect everyone to notice when I walk into a room. Only my dog does that, and she barks at shadows.
Still, poetry too, is talking, just with a different voice, a part of us to which the everyday world had not been privy. If we aren’t too careful with our structure, phrasing, meter, and rhyme, the reader might even begin to figure out who we really are. A poem leaves an emotion behind, a part of our essence, a sticky residue on the shoes of anyone who ventures though its fields or down its wooded pathways. Poetry is our art, our purple-crayon impassioned scrawls, and art seldom comes with inscriptions to explain its meaning. Instead, we walk away with an emotion, be it simple or complex, or we sniff the air, trying to figure out who stepped in something.
Tho sometimes, poetry is a wish for approval, or praise, a mask worn for others, the words– a clever disguise worn over our true identity, or a brushy camouflage with only our red clown noses visible through the leafy foliage of words, and if not talking, and not our art, then what the hell is it, really, and for whom was it written? Who had been worthy of our willing subjugation, of our counterfeit brown-parchment pretention? I’d rather bark at shadows. That’s where all the best poems are found anyway. The dog knew all along.
In the Eighties, Nancy Reagan coined the phrase, “Just Say No To Drugs.” A shorter version, immortalizing the notion in slogan was, “Just Say No.” The catchy slogan has some value beyond the original intent of helping vulnerable youth find a way to fight peer pressure which might tempt them to try drugs. The concept has wide practical application, from work scenarios, to telemarketers, to perpetually needy family or friends. In truth, it could apply to any sort of pressure which subjugates us to the will of another person, people, entity, or entities, which chirps like baby birds hoping to be fed of us, and it should be applied in all of these cases.
But, it won’t work.
The problem with the word, “No”, is that it’s not heard often enough that’s it’s truly understood. The word, “No”, is met with a bit of disbelief, some expectation of equivocation is contained within this foreign notion of a word. My dogs understand the word, “No”, and slink away with their tail between their legs upon hearing the reprimand. Humans, however, upon hearing the word, turn their head, quizzically, to the side, raising an eyebrow, and one furry ear, puzzled that they would hear such a bizarre thing. They pant, and they whimper, stricken with confusion and incredulity.
The word, “No”, comprised of only two letters, isn’t of the proper stature to meet the tall order of defiance. Instead of just saying, “No”, I would suggest just saying, “Fuck you”. It’s an attention-getter. The pushy car salesman who responds to, “No” with further insistence that you do, indeed, need to purchase the extended warranty for the vehicle he just assured you was extremely reliable, will respond quite differently to, “Fuck you.” There is no further question. The conversation has been had, with no further need for discussion. What “No” lacks in resolve, “Fuck you” may compensate for, in either the soft-spoken eloquence of candor, or in blood-knuckled, pugilistic spirit.
Sadly, the government wouldn’t be able to use, “Just Say Fuck You” for anti-drug billboard campaigns. “Fuck you” is out, no matter how much they would like to fuck you, and me, and everyone. There’s probably a law against using the term. Besides, it would be too honest if they said so, and it would seem there is a law against honesty in governance as well.
While a powerful statement, some might feel some reluctance in using the phrase, thinking it a full frontal assault, a brash alternative, a poke in the eye with an extended middle finger, but it is none of these things. “Fuck you”, in this context, is less about the other person than about ourselves. It is, in its finality, an affirmation of self, a frank statement of divergence on a proposed course of action. It is an adult acknowledgment that we need not agree on everything, but that no ground shall be surrendered this day.
Hold your head up high, and say it proudly, smile and let them see the joyful twinkle of sincerity in your eyes. The next time doe-eyed children in brown sashes and skirts awaken you from a nap, banging on the door and demanding that you buy cookies, don’t say, “No”, just say, “Fuck you.”
In my twitching early-morning compulsion to connect on Social Media, as has been recommended by the swami-hat marketing gurus, I’d decided to look at Twitter again. I never did quite figure it out, and even the name, ‘Twitter’, I find distracting, as it conjures images of restless, squabbling blue birds with no eyes, fluttering out of the the fly-opening in my Spongebob pajamas. I don’t know why that image comes to mind, and I don’t know how the little blue birds, blind as they are, got in there anyway. I just pray they never find a worm and fly off with it.
I have about 1200 Twitter followers, although I have no idea why they follow me, nor I suspect, do they have any idea why they follow me, in most cases. I follow most of them back, and I even look at what they have “Tweeted” once in a while. I can’t figure out most of that either. Much of it seems to be encrypted in a code of some sort, using strange abbreviations which only deeply-immersed undercover-agent double-identity Twitter people can decipher. I’m at a loss. I’m just an idiot with a WordPress blog.
Today, I’d noticed a section of the new Twitter page which invited me to connect with others which Twitter had recommended. “Sure thing.” I thought. I can never connect with enough people with whom I will never actually meet, and who speak in strange internet dialects which, being over forty, I am unlikely to ever understand. I clicked, despite the second thoughts.
There they were. Thousands of them. Millions, perhaps. The list was primarily authors. Twitter had decided that I might enjoy “Twittering” other writers. I suppose that might be true; a writer’s life can be a lonesome one sometimes. Though I have a predisposition for “Twittering” redheads, and I didn’t see any immediately apparent on the list. Besides, it was much too public a forum for such things. I read their short blurbs about themselves. Each and every one was world-renowned, or a best-selling something or other. I’d never heard of any of them, of course, but that means nothing. I’d only just recently heard of Dean Koontz, who actually is a best-selling something or other. Perhaps all these Twitter people really were best-selling something or others, and they had taken to Twitter’s virtual anonymity to hide from the screaming crowds of fans. I can’t say I fault them for that.
Still, I feel left out. I feel like the source of the odd smell which wafts from the bottom of one’s shoes after a walk in the park. I need to be a best-selling something or other. I need to learn their language, and learn to promote in tongues. But first, I have to get rid of these damned blue birds pecking at me in inside my Spongebob pajamas.
That is not a worm, dammit!
..Also saved from the ashes of an old blog. Time hasn’t helped. I still don’t understand twitter.
Hair. Most people have some, if not on their head, then surely elsewhere, although then it becomes a private matter.
As my hair became more sparse, partly in response to parenthood, which gives even hair follicles suicidal tendencies, I decided to keep mine short. My thinning hair looks less noticeable now. I look just like all the other dads whose hair has fallen out. Life is easier now as well, at least in regard to hair maintenance. I look exactly the same whether freshly showered or just awakened, hungover, and wondering why there are two lipstick-wearing alpacas in my bed, one crookedly chewing on my underwear, and the other smoking a cigarette. Alpacas have a lot of hair, by the way. I was a bit jealous. As a side note, I’m never drinking tequila again.
The boy is nine. The first twitches of self-awareness are itching, crawling around in his mind like the ticks he often brings home from the woods and nearby fields. Fashion sense is beginning to render him senseless. He had decided to grow his hair long in front and on top. Apparently someone famous, of whose existence I was not even aware until told, wears their hair that way, and all the nine year old girls like this famous person.
There was a time, not too long ago, when he was quite taken by Justin Bieber, specifically his hair. I don’t know much about Justin Bieber other than what I have seen on TV, and on the internet. I know he had some trouble walking a straight line.
I found myself trying to coach Justin as I watched the footage, “Aim for the line in the middle, Justin! You can do it!” It’s unknown if he tried to snort the line or not. It was a short clip.
In any case, the boy doesn’t have the right kind of hair for Justin Bieber hair. Like mine, his hair is thick and wavy, and when it grows out a bit, there exists what is known as, “Bushman Phenomenon”. When this happens, the hair lunges at odd angles, as though leaping out, attacking anyone nearby, and perhaps itself. Entire spear and machete battles can be seen being waged amid the dense brush atop one’s head. Onlookers withdraw, stepping back a few feet, without really knowing why. They pull their children closer. It’s a quiet spectacle, one without definition.
Tonight, the boy has reluctantly agreed to get a haircut. I’ve invited the entire defense line of the Philadelphia Eagles to my house to help hold him down when he changes his mind mid-cut. Nine year olds, while not terribly strong, can be difficult to subdue, as they writhe and scream of tyranny, complaining that somehow, their hair hurts. Their one superpower is their vocal ability, a sound blast which can knock satellites out of orbit.
After the screaming subsides and the wayward hair is collected from the floor, I intend to make another boy from it. Perhaps, this one will listen when told not to burp in church, though I have my doubts. I was nine once too. Now, I am forty four, and I still don’t listen.
An older piece saved from the ashes of an older blog.