The only person I have ever allowed the comfort of their own illusions is myself.
The only person I have ever allowed the comfort of their own illusions is myself.
The most foolish thing we can do is believe that countries have personalities. They do not. We turn them into people to make hatred more competitive.
The use of taxes as a hammer with which the poor can both punish the rich and somehow equalize themselves is an illusion that the rich want the poor to have. Taxes can’t hurt the rich unless an attempt is made to guillotine them with a tax code and this is suicidal.
No matter the operating system you choose in a free, non-socialist state, a gradation of wealth always will exist, it is the price of being alive.
The only proven solution to an unfortunate underclass is a system that permits segments of the deprived to band together and raise their children to a dependable and respectable level. The American system has proven this over and over again with its own immigrants. This is the true greatness of our country.
The huge stumbling block for America has been the tragedy of slavery, which is very slowly being repaired, but again slowly.
It is wrong minded to individually lodge ourselves on our own Internet space and throw mud at everything and pretend we are building anything. This is what spiteful children do when things seem unfair and they want attention.
Americans want to be taken care of but not to the extent that they lose sight of the joy of caring for themselves. Neither of our parties have the crucible internally to accomplish this although both say and perhaps believe they do. The result is a permanent underclass and a permanent set of overlords that preside over them. Every election we vote for the side we find ourselves stationed to, thereby oddly and sadly making certain we stay where we are.
The child to touch is the one who never laughs
The child to kiss is the one who dreads it most
The children to hug are the ones with arms wrapped around their own shoulders
When they think they are alone.
Laughter is greater than love
It is the first sign of every new spring
Laughing together is a circle that never shuts you out if you step into it.
Laughter helps forgive the crime of death
It can even be done alone
The only God who laughs is The Buddha
Gentle laughter is the only sound pain can hear
When the Bard of Avon, Mr. Shakespeare, awoke this very morning and stumbled into brevity during his eggs, he much appreciated that all other English playwrights, if indeed any of them should even be flattered with that category, would soon be marinating in a dish of morbid dread. As Change is the arrow that wounds all except the archer, his new notion of immediately debuting himself, as the writer of the fewest words, had pickled them all.
“Let the world find its verbosity elsewhere than from inside me,” he says to himself, in his fresh and surprisingly truncated style. “Today, I pledge my pen to the red-wine reduction sauce of succinctness. I will soon be a gentleman who states all in the brief and leaves the breadth of things to those who write with pencil.
“Verily,” he snorts, (a tad too loudly, for his mother now overhears), “I will no longer even covet an ‘audience’, for after all is said, ‘What indeed is an audience?’ They are simply spectators, distinguished purely by the good luck of finding a seat in my theatre. No, henceforth, they will stand and hunt for my posts on trees and they shall be all be called ‘Tweeters’, merely followers, upon whom I will waste ever fewer words.”
Hearing this vow from her perch just outside his doors, his mother, the severely long-winded, Mary Arden Shakespeare, a woman who could trace her own verbosity as linearly as an erection, backwards to the Doomsday Book, the paramount exercise of pointless wordiness, feels her lifetime toil of helicoptering her son, about to crash into a puddle of his abbreviated verbal sulkiness. She is slumped; legs splayed into her bunched nest of skirts, muttering pathetically to herself, (wholly in Old English, to her credit),” “I will offer my son a lethal shortness of breath before I will allow him an eternity of briefness of verse.”
William speeds by her, determined to conclude his life’s drudgery of taxing inventiveness before she can interfere, as she will want to do.
“Romeo and Juliet,” was already redrafting itself in his mind as a love story that lasts only as long as the flavor of a wad of sassafras chewing gum. “#Met @Romeo today, parents way unimpressed, hook’d up anyway, have scheme, but R. is really stupid, fucks everything up, big mess”
Shakespeare races to Stratford’s speaker’s corner to announce his new course for England’s scholarly conversation. “Tweets,” he shouts to an ever-gathering crowd of the muddy and toothless, “will transport my tragedies and my comedies to you useless scum. Be it known, that if it must be said, I will say it from inside the penitentiary of a “Tweet,” that is, one hundred and forty letterings or less. I will nail my tweets to this tree as I fashion them; I will stamp each with a dollop of gruel for authenticity, henceforth to be understood as my “gruel tag.” My histories, poems, and essays will remain on my Facebook page or will be posted in my Blog.”
The first car I paid for by myself, was a Buick Electra convertible ( commonly considered the longest car ever manufactured in the U.S.). I abandoned it, sandwiched by cornfields, broken down in Nebraska in 1969. It remains the only car, at least in the Midwest, with a mailing address, as two families are comfortably still living in it. My girlfriend dumped me, right there, and thumbed back east with a stranger, setting in motion a disturbing course of using my cars as madams.
Until I was married, it never occurred to me that the only reason I worked at all was to buy expensive cars. Fine cars are a persuasive indicator of compatibility to a woman, even more precise than astrological signs and a sense of humor. Likewise, it is fairly easy to gauge exactly the type of woman you are attracting with the car you drive. After Nebraska, all I ever cared about was how physically attractive a woman was. I know this was oafish, but I had been wounded, and this seemed an appealing brand of revenge. These women, ( some of whom, in my case, could barely sneeze without advice), could tell you the price and year of any car on the road. I had a little money at the time and engaged my prey without conscience.
When I married, the dynamic of seduction had to be re-calibrated. Using my car as an aphrodisiac was now unthinkable ( as well as perilous). Small towns are magnets for young couples. They all buy Volvo station wagons, just like we did. This is the car that women start persuading men to buy before they have even spoken about children. They use the pretense of “might need the extra room for a dog.” This is the most duplicitous machine ever marketed. It is breathtakingly fast ( drawing in, the unsure male), but it is his spouse who knows that crash test dummies sometimes play Scrabble in it, during high speed collision tests.
My oldest car and I are entering into a more predictable repair period now. It takes me to doctors, and I take it to George, our mechanic on Main St. I am beginning to sense a queer, certain smugness, coming from this car, like it thinks it might outlast me. Then that hardness in me shows itself again, and I suggest to him, he might like being an apartment in Nebraska.
The flying bottle of Jack Daniels continued to slaver out its brownish alcohol as it passed my ear. It spit some on my neck as it headed into Pete Rudge’s fireplace mirror behind me. The mirror buckled like an airless fighter punched in the mid section. Reflective glass shards blew outward and the heavy wooden frame let go of its wall falling the six feet onto the Italian tile.
Ronnie Van Zant and I were separated by a wide glass coffee table. Rudge had disappeared to get more drinks, which made no practical sense except that he might have thought the best route was to get his lead singer to pass out and deal with all this dangerous nonsense later tonight.
I was just about finished with this mean little drunken motherfucker and unless he had hidden another bottle to throw, this was not going to be a fight he was going to get a song out of, unless it was going to be called, “I don’t remember shit after he hit me”.
I have never actually hit a member of any band. I once lifted the keyboardist for The Who a few inches off the floor by his neck to shut him up and I did have fights with road crew on occasion but that was very early on with Genesis. Pete Townshend and I got into it once but that another much more complicated story.
Pete Rudge was my boss at the time. He was the tour manager/manager for The Rolling Stones and The Who in North America. He was also the manager of Lynryd Skynryd, a huge country rock band that I knew little about. This made him a significant player in live performance across the U.S. I had never encountered anyone then or since quite like him.
These bands traveled like the medieval Kings of France and Rudge himself created much of this imaginative pomp. I was jolted and unnerved by my first tour with The Who. There was a dynamism that was indistinguishable from high violence. If you were an outsider, like I was at first, danger seemed to lurk everywhere. The amounts of money that were at stake intimidated me and I dreaded making mistakes. I would work and rework the deals constantly for months. I didn’t talk much.
Pete had hired me to do the money for The Who about a year earlier and I had just completed my first tour. He kept me on afterwards to run his New York office while he traveled wherever he traveled. His 57th street Manhattan office had a balconied second floor, ten people, a white grand piano, an Andy Warhol of Mick Jagger, a hundred gold albums and a regulation sized basketball hoop. He sat me at his huge desk with a staff that did not know me and resented me because they, like me, had little to do but posture. We booked tours for The Stones and waited for Mick to cancel them. I felt like a dick most of that time.
Rudge had a lot to do. It is an axiomatic in the music business that an artist cannot receive enough attention from their managers and his acts were especially needy. The Rolling Stones were essentially controlled by Mick Jagger who would blow in, look at a tour that had taken months to put together, announce that he would be spending time at the water somewhere in Europe on those dates, and hundreds of people would get fucked.
The Who were handled by Bill and Jackie Curbishley, their managers in London, so there was really very little for me to do at all for them until they decided to tour.
I told Rudge I probably should quit. Rudge dramatically responded by inventing a scheme where I would take over much of the day-to-day breastfeeding of Lynryd Skynryd. This would have been a big opportunity for me and I wanted it to happen. I did a crash course on Skynyrd’s history and music while memorizing their faces and the instruments they each played.
Rudge and I had picked Ronnie Van Zant up on the tarmac where his small jet had landed. He deplaned with a bottle of Jack Daniels in each hand. Rudge whispered to me, “Welcome to country rock.”
Van Zant gave Rudge a “country hug.” This is a gesture defined by its vast distance from homosexuality. He saw me as he had come down the steps from the plane but ignored me and did not shake hands, he sulked off to the car drinking as he went, and we followed.
I am big and I know how people react to me. It is an advantage that takes time to get accustomed to. If you are big when you are very young, like I was, you are the target of smaller older kids. This makes fighting back impossible because bullies are always the ones that are bigger. This is a canon in adult minds. I hated being big. Now in time of course this all changes. Eventually my size performed like an early warning system for me. I can detect resentment immediately and from long distances from people who are disturbed by it.
Van Zant had decided, despite near panic-stricken explanations from Rudge and me that I was Rudge’s bodyguard. He was not going to see it any other way and he did not like it. He was furious with Rudge because he figured Rudge did not trust him anymore. Laugh and disbelieve if you like but this was true.
So we wind up in Pete’s fabulously posh apartment in the city, Ronnie is still drinking and now Rudge has joined in. Rudge had tabled any more discussion about me and was going on about the next album. To which I had nothing to add so I just sat there dumbly.
I was also sinking into a very unsmiling black mood because Ronnie was just sitting on the sofa giving me the half-eye me from under his sweaty black hat.
From my point of view this lunatic was collecting impulses from Jupiter simply to fuck over what little career I had. On top of that I had wasted a day memorizing his music, which for some equally incoherent and petty reason bothered me almost as much.
I began staring back at him giving him my best non-confederate ”fuck you, you cunt.”
This, it appeared, was the last bullet necessary to fully load his pistol; he stands up and whips the bottle at me.
Ronnie make significant misjudgments in the next seconds, the most glaring of which was his estimation that the glass coffee table would hold his weight when he stepped on it to get to me. It didn’t, and his foot went straight through trapping him awkwardly. A drunken legend wedged in a coffee table is fairly defenseless but I never took advantage.
From out of nowhere, and to my permanent appreciation, came Rudge through the air and into Ronnie’s chest driving him backwards over the sofa, freeing his boot by sheer momentum.
Ronnie remained limp on the floor either from general shock or the concussion of hitting the floor with Rudge on top of him. Rudge screamed in his face,” He is with me and he is on your side”.
He stood up pulling the sofa and Ronnie with him. He buckled onto the other sofa next to me. Ronnie Van Zant, now pretty much a serious physical mess walked around the coffee table over to me and gave me a hard no crouch hug and said, “Sorry man”, and that was that.
Later after Ronnie had left and Rudge was frantically trying to find his maid on the phone to come clean up, he put his hand over the receiver and said to me, “ You still want this job?” I told him that I did.
Did You See Me Dad?
Glimpses of mortality always seem to interrupt otherwise perfectly fine days.
Freddie Tweed is traveling westward on a gurney towards a half-opened window that is letting in a good mouthful of late afternoon-sunset. Certain he is to go crashing through it and into the sinking sun, he releases his vise grip on the sides of the speeding bed and raises both his arms up and into the air.
That same day only earlier, the reliably regular rhythm of the roller coaster’s heavy, clacking chains begins to slow ominously, badly out of tune with the song of a standard roller coaster’s climb. Each thick steel chain link groans and strains to pull them all up and over the first of several, plywood supported mountaintops in this carnival ride. The machine itself appears almost baffled by its lack of strength. He hears more than one rider in the front cars coaxing the machine to try harder. Their fear seems to pour backward over the cars reaching him with a syrupy alarm. He is in the very last car.
The first two wagons manage to reach the peak, then slowly the third and forth creep over the top. The twelve-car train will not make it over its midmost threshold, so it just hangs there, looking from below into the sun’s glare, like a speared caterpillar on the knuckle of a shadow hand. Everyone is silent or screaming. The coaster begins to drift backward toward where Freddie’s dad is waiting for him at the ride’s end, where they had stood to skip turns to get him into the very last seat by himself.
The steel towline tries to stop the backwards plunge but it snaps and flaps wildly about like a guillotined garden hose, barely missing the faces of the people in the first seats. Each parent swings their arms around their children, looking like those water ballerinas from the black and white movies of the thirties, the ones where their feet never touch the bottom of the pool, and everyone has to wear rubber swim caps. The littlest children seem thrilled, absent as they are of any memories that could set off alarms, but the adults knew what is happening and turn around in their seats, to look back downward to where they just given up their tickets to board this fated train.
Freddie sits alone in his last car, at first supposing that all the rubbernecking is about him, that they think he is to blame. He is so afraid.
The swelling, cotton candy-scented breeze, from the summer’s hot air on the back of his neck, the very place a wind should not be coming from, links him back to the promise he made to himself before getting into the coaster. His father had said to him,” And if you want to be really brave, you will let go of the bar on your lap as you go over the top and wave your hands above your head.”
Now, as the train shot backwards down the hill, Freddie Tweed raises both his arms into the air and closes his eyes, fulfilling his promise.
The wheeled hospital stretcher stops short of the yawning window and it’s twilight sun and curves left into the operating room; Freddie’s arms are still stretched high and straight. His dad stands in the room, wearing his own white mask that does not hide his eyes. “Did you see me dad, did you see me?” he yells. His father looked at his boy, raises his own arms up above his head and starts to cry.