Running to Stand Still...

It's four in the afternoon and I'm strolling along the foot and bicycle path in Freedom Park. The evening is just beginning to settle towards night as the last harsh rays of direct sunlight are eclipsed by the Atlanta skyline. Towards me along the path lumbers a most unlikely sight. Joggers and cyclists along this stretch of park are as common as bums on a subway but this man was unique. About six foot, he sported a massive pot belly, as if someone had tied a freshly basted turkey across his midsection and then dressed him in an over sized sweat shirt. He was wearing a knit cap and a pair of short, very short, running trunks that ceased being fashionable about the time Dire Straits decided they wanted their MTV. His legs were very, very hairy. Finishing the ensemble was a nearly antique headphone radio, the self contained type that requires four double A batteries and that sits entirely on the head as if one were wearing a pair of camcorder batteries on a beret. He was also grinning from ear to ear.

The man didn't so much run as lumber, almost staggering from step to step as if he were, in fact, legless and his torso and arms were being carried about by a pair of midget wookies with no interest in cooperation. His belly seemed to bounce independently of the motion of his enfeebled legs and the whole effect of his ambulation was rather like watching Muybridge's photographic vignettes of galloping horses.

The man passed and I continued down the path. A mile further on the same man passed me from behind, still lumbering, still staggering along at a pace about half again the speed that I walk, which is faster than most people.

As I neared the end of the path I encountered the same trudging fellow on his way back past me, still grinning like a kid after trick or treat. I had to stop and watch his form recede up the hill. He was still plodding along, threatening to stumble over himself with every step but showed no sign of slowing. The section of the path we had been sharing was nearly three miles long and he had run it end to end at least twice and it looked very much like he was on his way to a third. I realized in a flash that this pudgy, hairy, dismissably couch potato-esque person was in the process of running nearly nine miles.

As he crested the hill I noticed what I hadn't on his last two passes. The skin around his legs hung a bit loosely as if there had recently been much more of him than there is today. His gait, while awkward, was steady and powerful and he had, only on the last pass, begun to sweat. Since the summer this man had clearly burned off over a hundred thousand calories and he had done it by trundling up and down this foot path in silly shorts with an antique radio. Now I understood why he was grinning.

You keep doing what you're doing, lumbering, hairy leg, booty shorts, head set guy. My hat is off to you.


Making the Past into Now.

I've added and backdated some posts from my other blogs for your reading pleasure.

Too Much Flotsam

I have been made to create a blog on blogspot.com in order to be allowed to comment on the blog of a longtime friend.

Here it is.

Personally, I was happy with my old blog www.celebrateyourtomness.com but it's gone the way of an unlucky dodo.

I hope you like this one in addition to Fucking Myspace and Bloody Livejournal


The Pigs Have Won Tonight

We have these adages. These base concepts that pervade our culture, our thinking and our understanding. I don't mean those penny wisdoms, those maxims that we pass out casually in the words of our day to day: birds of a feather, a penny saved, early to bed and early to rise, idle hands, if you aim at nothing and never judge a book. No, I mean those ideas that underly our mythology. I mean the things that we consider to be fundamental truths. I mean the things that go beyond what we take for granted and that become what we take to be indispensable to our moral conceptions, the substrata of our collective lives.

Though, I wonder sometimes whether or not these things are true or whether we simply choose to believe them because because some cardinal part of our aggregate psyche needs to believe them in order to make sense of a senseless world. These are the morals of our fairy tales, the common assumptions that underly our movies. They are the things that we consider so deep seated that we are likely to forget them and often need to be reminded through apologue. Why do we never seem to question these ideas?

Are children really innocent? Does faith trump cynicism? Is balance and moderation really the path to wisdom? Is family as important as we pretend? Is honesty truly the best policy? I'm convinced that good stands, at best, an even chance against evil no matter what the storybooks say. Does human life really have intrinsic value or do we just convince ourselves that it does because the alternative is too uncomfortable or too inconvenient?

I don't know the answers and I can't pretend to but I'm inclined to think that anything believed by a large enough people cannot have been adequately unpacked. I wonder if these very ideas of family, honesty, good, evil moderation and faith have any value on which to pin these axioms. It pains me that we may all be, in some small way, deluding ourselves.

I'm no nihilist. I'm just choosy about where I pin my heart.


Wait & Bleed

This is the true story of the one and only act of deliberate brutality I have ever committed.

When I was growing up in the sprawling village of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, I lived down the block from an overgrown tyrant of a boy one year my senior who entertained himself by abusing the smaller of his neighbors. Approaching two decades on, I find I can't remember his name. It might have been Randal, Randy but I'm really not sure anymore. It's hardly important.

I need to qualify that he never beat me up, per se. He would push and shove. He would wait in the bushes until you had buried yourself in a pile of fall leaves and then sit on you until you begged for air. He would demolish snowmen. He would pelt stones at smaller children on bicycles hoping to see them fall. He would steal school books or trinkets and dare his quarry to report him to their mother or to his, knowing that most would not. If he were, in fact, tattled upon, he would unceremoniously dispose of, typically via storm drain, the burgled item.

Telling parents was no use with Randal. He was a latchkey kid with a mother so guilty about her own perpetual absence from his life that she would never believe the reports of other parents or, if she did believe them, she was so desperate to keep her son's favor that she wouldn't dare punish him. And so the taunting and the vandalism and the thousands of repetitions of "Why are you hitting yourself?" and such dragged on for much of my time in second and third grade.

The summer I turned nine I was given a basic carpenter's set. I briefly thought that I might want to be a carpenter and build houses or to be a puppeteer and sculpt wooden effigies the way my father had. I was also in scouts and, devoid a conventional father figure, not performing well in sports, outdoorsmanship or crafts. Thus the tools were of great concern to me.

I had been building something on the back patio, perhaps a birdhouse. Like Randal's real name, the object is not really relevant. I had been working at it for most of the morning when Randal came past, knocked my work to the ground and crushed it underfoot, laughing all the time. He saw me with the hammer and was fearless, knowing well that I, like the rest of the neighborhood children, was afraid to strike him. To show his confidence he put his hand, palm down, on the saw horse and dared me, "Come on, hit me with the hammer," he repeated a half dozen times in the sickly nasal voice he favored when taunting. Mocking my rage with pouting lips and smug satisfaction he chided me again and again to crush his fingers with the hammer.

Which I didn't do.

I did, however, have a nail in my left hand, a long roofer's nail with a head the size of a dime that I had been about to drive into my project before Randal destroyed it. With one swift stroke I poised the nail over the back of his hand and drove it clean through and into the wood below, sticking him to it. Randal didn't cry out. He didn't curse or cry. He just stood there with a face full of disbelief as I took a second nail from the box and calmly drove it in beside the first, nailing him twice over to my grandfather's weathered sawhorse.

I didn't gloat or taunt or wait for a response. I went into the house and drank a glass of juice, which seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. I then dug in the basement for three or four minutes for a pair of heavy wire snips. Returning to the back yard I found Randal, still speechless, nailed where I had left him, looking like he was just short of crying from pain or at the knowledge that if he were to call for help he was unlikely to receive it. I clipped the heads off the nails. With an audible gasp from Randal, I pulled his hand up and off. I then gathered my tools into my grown - up sized toolbox of which I was so proud and picked up the carcass of my carpentry endeavor, which I dropped in the patio trash bin. I went back in the house without another word. Neither I nor anyone in my small circle of friends was bothered by Randal again.

I don't know what he told his mother. Perhaps he made up a story as to how he injured his hand. Perhaps he tattled on me and she didn't believe him. Perhaps she had a row with my mother who never told or punished me because she was secretly proud of me for confronting him so decisively. I don't suppose it matters anymore. I do remember that I saw him the day before my family moved away, some two and a half years later and he still sported a nasty pair of scars. I imagine he has them still and I wonder what kind of person twenty seven year old Randal might be compared to the ten year old I feared.

On very rare occasions, violence is the answer.


Why Do You Want to Do This?

She keeps asking me, my Aunt. She is a deeply loving but deeply disappointed person. She spent as long in art school as I did in film school and, poised to retire, she has never gotten to be the artist she wanted to be. Because she loves me, she keeps asking, “Why do you want to make movies?”

The answer is simple, “I don’t.”

What I want is to be a spy. I want to save the world through guile and guts. I want to be a gangster, a Mafioso, a keeper of a criminal code and underworld ideology as seductive as sin, itself. I want to be a vigilante and dispense justice on my own terms. I want to die and talk to the living. I want to travel in space, to see things that others have scarcely imagined. I want to overcome a disability so debilitating that others had always assumed I could never be anything but a burden to society. I want to lead a revolution. I want to be a Kung Fu master. I want to be arrested for a crime I didn’t commit and lead a jailbreak so daring it will never be forgotten. I want to be a cop that was sold out by his own people and go outside the system to avenge the death of my partner. I want to be the most inspiring English teacher in the world. I want to be a war hero, a sports hero and an antihero. I want to hunt zombies. I want to rescue the princess. I want to die slowly of a degenerative illness and change everyone else’s outlook on the world in the doing of it. I want to dodge bullets with grace and ease. I want to get the girl. I want to win the game or diffuse the bomb with one second to spare. I want to have subtitles.

At one time or another I have said to myself that I want to do each of these things, and many others and I want to do them because I saw each in a movie. When I was a lonely little boy in suburban Milwaukee I would waste my Saturdays hopping theatres in the Marcus Cinemas at the end of my block. It was there that my dreams were born, on a yellowing screen, at the rate of twenty-four frames per second, in the twilight of Plato’s cave reborn. I will never get to be a spy and I will never get to be a Kung Fu master. I will never go into space and I will never get to hunt zombies but I can help make dreams for some other lonely little boy.