Domesticated Primate

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Local actress (and fiance of mine) reading “What’s Next? at HIPPO in Downtown, New Bedford, MA.

I suffer from depression.  I believe it was 2008 when I was diagnosed; clinical depression, they called it.  Though on the sheet they gave me when I left the appointment, it had been listed as ‘major depressive disorder’ which made me especially anxious–sitting in my car asking myself, oh no, am i doomed?!–as I was yet to realize they were, in fact, one in the same.  In truth, I believe I have suffered from depression for my whole life.  I remember sitting in my grandmother’s yard alone on a sunny Saturday morning and watching as about one car every few hours drove down her lonely Fairhaven street–Ocean Avenue–and wondering to myself, where are they going?  And why am I not going there too?  I recall going to the Silver City Galleria around the same time, watching teenagers and adults holding hands with their significant others, smiling and laughing.  I remember walking by them and wondering where I fit in, or more accurately, if I would ever fit in.  I remember being at St. Joseph’s church with my grandmother at night, watching the priest pontificate and wondering to myself how he could be so sure of something, and what really are the chances that there’s some big guy spying down on us and judging our every move?  I also held a secret hope that if God really did exist, he hadn’t been watching my best friend and I as we watched the scrambled porn channels that barely came through on old basic cable, Channels 76 and 81 I believe?

In high school I managed that depression through repression and arrogance, oh and also a 3.5 year romance with a girl who I was too insecure to break up with. But in college, that was where it really came about.  So, as I said, in 2008 I was diagnosed and put on some SSRIs–serotonin surge re-uptake inhibitors–a remarkable little drug that prevented serotonin from being reabsorbed after you did something pleasurable and your brain was flooded with it.  The pills made me feel dull, like m typically sharp and snappy mind had been gently rounded off.  My parents said they made me seem calmer and as if my naturally tempestuous nature had become more manageable.  I stopped taking the pills after a few months.

To this day, I am not on any medications.  Though, I do still experience depression, usually in short bursts.  I used to be incredibly poor at managing it, preferring avoidance and other more nefarious methods of self soothing.   But now, after some growth and life experience, I have become much better at working with the hand I’ve been dealt.  Though, right now as I’m writing this, I am in the middle of what has been a particularly difficult bout of depression.

January is usually tough for me, probably a result of Seasonal Affective Disorder–the aptly named acronym, SAD.  This year is a little different than previous years, as it is my first year teaching and managing a classroom.  My responsibilities feel a bit greater, and my time to self-soothe has been significantly limited by those responsibilities.  Combine that with the current socio-political situation and we’ve got a regular recipe for depressive paralysis.

Usually with my depression my triggers are erratic and difficult to discern. Given the recent election and the news coverage that’s followed, they have been especially so.  For example just two days ago I saw a viral tweet from celebrity baker Duff Goldman calling out Donald Trump for having someone make the EXACT same cake that he had made for President Obama in 2012.  I nearly lost my mind.  It was the epitome of tastelessness.  In that moment, that little fact about a stupid cake proved to me that the man taking the highest position in our government is utterly empty, wholly devoid of taste or tact or grace or any other positive human attribute.  It proved to me that Trump can’t even be human, and must actually be some reptilian doing a poor impression of humanity.  Now, as I write this, I realize that maybe he isn’t just a reptilian doing an impression.  Maybe he’s a reptilian performance artist engaged in a satire, attempting to draw  humanity’s attention toward the type of behavior which we value and (apparently) reward.  But, regardless of the truth of the situation, a viral tweet turned my brain to depressed goo and made me want to crawl into my bed and wrap myself in sheets and tie them up so I can never get out and nothing can ever get in.  Like I said, erratic triggers.

What I did to manage this feeling was put some headphones on and go for a walk where I listened to The Electrician by The Walker Brothers on repeat for about 15 minutes.  This is how I do a lot of self-soothing, I create–or consume–art.  In other words, instead of letting depression trump me–get it?–I’ve been upping my creative output and intake.  Which leads me to what I had initially intended to do with writing this today: admit that as of late I’ve been really bad at managing my creative responsibilities to other people.

I started an indie publishing venture last year, Domesticated Primate, and we’ve been rolling out releases as rapidly as possible, six releases involving 4 artists as of today.  I’ve got a few projects on the back-burner that I haven’t given the proper time, a problem which I hope to remedy starting this week.  Between taking over a new classroom and dealing with the thunderstorms in my own head, it has been difficult.

Before I push onward, I wanted to give some written time to the projects which we have already published and go a little in depth about each one of them, so I feel as if I have put a satisfying pause on them while I move forward and generate some more output with these artists.  I’m going to go in chronological order by release:

*dinosauriaRIDICULA by DR*

Domesticated Primate release DP001: This was my first written release ever.  After finding out that I–along with essentially every other employee– was to be laid off from a non-profit that I had willingly left a high-paying sales job to take on, I started to write things.  I had written pieces in college, the longest of which was a screenplay with two friends, along with probably a hundred-ish songs and these short, disturbing, and highly confessional pieces (I don’t feel totally comfortable calling them poems) were my return to the written word.  I wrote and published them anonymously in booklets made of copier paper and left them around New Bedford for people to find and read.  Once the decision was made to start publishing more stuff, including essays I had begun to write, I decided to research binding and how I could go about getting more professionally done copies made, eventually compiling the pieces, designing the cover,  formatting the book and releasing it as dinosauriaRIDICULA: The first 50.  Below, I have included two short pieces from it, entitled “a moment,” and “dead in a ditch”:

a moment:

lying on a trampoline, a young boy, looks at the sky:

sweat, now growing cold from the night air, draws a pattern down the sides of his shirt.
as he inhales,
the sweet briny smell of the beach
tickles his nose.
he pictures small waves dancing onto the shore.
in the morning he will walk down there
with his dog
and collect sea glass.

the sky has faded to a dark blue,
most stars are obstructed
by the bright lights
of a nearby city.
his father prepares steaks on a charcoal grill.
his mother is driving home
after working a double at the restaurant.
His dog lays
curled up by his grandmother’s feet,
who in her bathrobe
is watching
wheel of fortune in the living room.

the type of moment
so intensely simple
and
so fiercely peaceful
that it haunts you
for the rest
of time.

dead in a ditch:

A fleeting, flitting, fumbling thought
tumbles and turbules and flagrants
and flots:

It filigrees
and turns
and ties in a cinch.

It vomits
and collapses asleep
on a bench.

It buys a newspaper.
It steals someone’s hat.
It resents both its parents for making it fat.

It dirties the sheets.
It goes out for brunch.
It files its taxes and drinks coffee
too much.

But mostly this thought, it fleets and it’s flits
and one day will die in an
empty,
ignored,
disgusting,
forgotten,
dirty,
dusty,
moldy,
decaying,
frightening,
and
lonely

ditch.

*False Profits by Nick LeBlanc*

Domesticated Primated release DP002: As I wrote the short pieces that became dinosauriaRIDICULA, I found myself wanting to write something longer.  These longer things became essays, almost 50 of them.  They were unedited and written in a conversational style.  After collecting them and giving them a once over, I decided this would be the second release.  Though, the essays weren’t long enough to alone constitute a book, so I began stretching my shorter poems and pieces into longer short stories, and I even took a long-gestating idea for a graphic novel about a guy getting high and doing his laundry and committed it to script form.  I compiled all of these  pieces and released them as False Profits, a title taken from a short story I included in the collection and which I have also included below.  This was a cathartic book to write and compile, and I credit it with being the thing that proved to me that I was capable of committing to long-form writing, something that would finally appear with my next release.

False Profits

Words furiously burst from his lips, his eyes burn like flickering stars, his gait long and confident. An hour in already, and he’s still fascinating.

“Does any of that compute? And how does it make you feel? You are eight times more likely to die at the hand of a domestic police officer than to be killed by a foreign terrorist, yet the ratio of anti-terrorism programming on basic cable programs to news coverage of police brutality is 8:1.”

I sit, gaze transfixed, mesmerized by his performance. His radiates an intense energy, as if his tightly buttoned collar is the only thing preventing him from bursting into millions of tiny pieces like some humanoid supernova. True, I was invited to this conference and yes, I nearly declined. But, oh how I now regret that initial doubt, how embarrassing my lack of faith.

The pamphlet had taunted me, “Come see Shadow, a voice of the New Consciousness Movement.” It advertised his many meetings with dignified characters, and even featured a quote from the Dalai Llama praising him as ‘just about the closest thing to a modern-day street prophet.’ I was intrigued, but suspicious. Boy, was I wrong, this man, this Shadow, he’s it. What a speaker, what a perspective! He’s the real thing!

He stops his pacing at the front of the stage and turns outward, facing us, “Perhaps strangest,” hands waving across his chest, arms outstretched, “In Canada during the 1970s, there was an incredible drought, and the longer it lasted, the higher sales went for Norton Simon and his newly acquired soda brand, Canada Dry.”

Tiny pockets of muted chuckling are heard across the room, I remain quiet, fully absorbed.

“Why do I tell you this? Why does any of it matter? I hear you. I do. You aren’t saying it, but I hear you. ‘Spurious! Spurious! Spurious!’ you say! ‘Irrelevant!’ I can feel it in your gaze, your mind absconds at the thought of these strange connections, these synchronicities.”

A pause, then affecting a comically serious intonation, he continues, “All your life, you have been fed, ‘correlation does not imply causality.’ Pish-posh, pish-posh, right? Well not so fast, weary travelers, I’m here to tell you that’s true!”

He drops down to his knees, this Shadow, he lowers his voice to just above audible, eyes fixed outward, unflinching, looking through his audience, “But,” he raises his index finger toward the ceiling, punctuating his speech, practically hissing, “Where it does not imply causality, correlation does imply correlation.”

We, his witnesses, erupt in cheers. Applause and whooping rings out from the banquet hall’s rafters. We are enraptured.

“The English definition of correlation is, ‘A causal, complementary, parallel, or reciprocal relationship, especially a structural, functional, or qualitative correspondence between two comparable entities.’ How perfect!”

He pulls down a screen from the back wall of a stage, four large, crimson words emblazoned across it.

“The parts of that definition that we are going to focus on are, reciprocal, parallel, structural, and complementary,” he says, slapping at each word on the poster with his index finger.

“We are going to look at both the How’s, and the Why’s. But first I want you to imagine a deep blue pool of still water.”

The lighting changes, the room now cast in a gentle cerulean, angry red words now pitched in a placid purple glow.

He continues, mellifluously, drawing his witnesses in, “into that pool, we drop something—what the something is, is of no concern, only that the something is of substantial weight.”

A pause, dramatic.

“When that something is dropped, it sinks to the bottom and tiny waves ripple outward from it, right? We’ve all seen it before, the concentric circles gradually increasing in size…now imagine, imagine if we dropped two things at the same time right next to one another. What would happen?”

No one responds, we weren’t expecting this question.

His hands rest by his side, palms upward, awaiting the response, “Well, what would happen, who has an idea?”

I quickly shoot my hand up as if I was struck by a lightning bolt. Practically jumping out of my seat, I engage with him, this Shadow, “I guess, uh, the waves would hit each other? Like, bounce off one another?” I stutter, unconfidently.

“You sir,” he points directly at me, glare sharp, smile wide, “Have just discovered the origins of existence as we know it!”

He speaks for over an hour, weaving an impenetrably thick tale of synchronicitous happenings, burying his aforementioned correlations in layers and layers of complex, manifold significance. He tells us that each one of us is special. He tells us that each of our lives is utterly meaningless. He inoculates us with confidence in the infinite strange loop of existence, comforting our deeply harbored anxious fears of the impermanent.

By the end of the monologue, he is sweating, we are breathless. I am enlightened, edified, thrilled. He has taken us from this poorly ventilated banquet hall and dragged us across the universe. We have been made privy to the parallel lines of time and space and the reciprocal relationships that fortify their configurations. We have been learnt in the structural rigidity of our perception, and taught that just by slightly altering it, we can change all of creation—and we learn that it is called ‘creation’ as it has been created by our own minds which are in itself creations of a potentially unconscious mass super-consciousness that may or may not be hiding from itself by breaking up its perceptions into little tiny pieces called our ‘minds.’ Utterly fascinating.

“Thank you,” Shadow responds to our rapturous applause at his conclusion, “Are there any questions or clarifications needed?”

I reflect on his words. I consider his personal story of growth; from privilege to resentment to selfhatred to awakening. I can’t find anything to ask. He answers a few clarifying questions, takes a bow, and exits the stage. The lights come up around us. Glasses clink together and echo, getting taken away by waiters sweating in their standard-issue hotel neckties.

An hour or so later after socializing with some of the other attendees, I am leaving the banquet hall and stumble across Shadow walking to his car in the parking lot. He is carrying a box of rolled up posters and informational pamphlets.

“Can’t get someone to do that for you, Shadow?” I ask, being friendly, hoping to strike a conversation.

He catches my eye and smiles dismissively, pressing onward toward his vehicle. I follow him, curious. It is an older German wagon, trunk full of boxes similar to the one he carries.

“Your presentation was great, thank you.”

He nods his head, acknowledging my praise, dropping his key as he fumbles to unlock the door. I reach down and pick it up for him, unlocking his door on the way up.

“Thank you,” he responds, resting the box on the roof of his car, collared shirt now unbuttoned, a sweaty yellowed-white undershirt beneath it.

“You were a great presenter. That must be exhausting. Do you enjoy it?”

“Honestly,” feigning an exhausted smile, “not really.”

Surprised, I respond, “That’s unexpected—”

“Do you know the story of Pagliacci?” he spits out, interrupting, loading his box in the trunk. Is he trying to shoo me away?

“Not that I can remember,” I say.

How could he not enjoy presenting like that? He seems so passionate, so informed. To have that knowledge, to be able to share it…I envy that ability, and I am certain almost anyone would, conscious or otherwise. And if he doesn’t enjoy it, why do it? It would seem violate his whole philosophy to not enjoy sharing his knowledge. I’m having a very hard time buying his assertion.

Now sitting in the driver seat, window rolled down, he looks up at me as he lights a cigarette, “Thanks again for—”

I just have to know, I can’t hold it back, “Why do it? What more cause do you need to enjoy that experience? It was enlightening, and I spoke with the other attendees, I know that’s universal, doesn’t that feel good at least?”

He remains silent, staring up at me, flicking the cigarette against the window, ashes falling to the pavement below.

I start to feel sick, almost, stomach churning over. What’s that they say about meeting your idols?

“Doesn’t it?” I nervously repeat.

He huffs, annoyed, “How much did you pay for a ticket?”

“Forty-five dollars, why?”

No response, only cigarette ashes.

I continue, nervously craving Shadow’s reassurance, hoping there’s more to the story, “Given your philosophy, and your whole presentation, wouldn’t that be the only motivation you need, to help wake others up, isn’t that true? That’s has be true.”

He takes a drag and drops his cigarette, lit end still burning by my feet.

Blowing out smoke, “False,” he pauses, eyes fixed on the steering wheel, “profits,” he concludes and drives away.

*OTHER PEOPLE by Nick LeBlanc*

Domesticated Primate release DP003:  This release means an awful lot to me.  It’s my first full book.  More a novella than a novel proper, this little beauty of a book bursts with so much energy and thoughts that have been flying through my brain for years.  Inspired by attending parties out of obligation and being forced to watch people mill about, you dive into the minds of nameless attendees at a random holiday party and weave in and out of their consciousnesses until it all swirls together and doubles back and forms the wacky piece of a darkly comic puzzle.  Very proud of this work.  It even has an amazing cover done by the artist Meaggsy, our first collaboration.  Below I have included the first two chapters.  If I was forced to recommend you read one thing that I have written, this is that thing.

OTHER PEOPLE

1

You’re at a party.  It’s the sort of party where everyone seems just oh-so appropriately attired, like a scene from a competition where the winner is rewarded for appearing the least threatening.

The type of party where the eggnog is purposefully spiked, imbued with just enough brandy to lubricate the crusty bread-ends of stale conversation, yet not enough to risk the social liability of an individual delivering a romantically exaggerated soliloquy on the complicated nature of his reality and how it all just matters, man.

It’s the sort of shindig your upper-middle class grandparents may have gone to in the 1950s where discussing religion and politics was explicitly frowned upon but smoking indoors was socially acceptable.  Where a lime JELL-O mold bundt cake stuffed with pineapples and sour cream represented a high watermark of American culture, and the warm familiarity of Bing Crosby’s voice crackled out of the old Victrola positioned  thoughtfully adjacent to the wet bar, complete with faux crystal carafes displaying an ambered rainbow of mystery spirits.

It’s the type of get-together where obligation encourages your attendance, where your absence would make for a reputational scourge, but your arrival goes unnoticed.

You’re alone and your hands are cold, you left your gloves in your coat that you hung on the antique-looking, walnut-stained rack by the entrance.  The welcome mat was dusted with snow from the guests’ boots and peppered by pine needles fallen from a wreath framing the heavy wooden door’s pineapple-shaped knocker.  With every guest’s entrance, the door swings and another batch of needles falls from the wreath.  Judging by the size of the pile, this party has quite a few attendees.

You saw your own collection of needles fall from the wreath to the mat as a light skinned woman with hair of brunette-turned-grey and particularly soft features had opened the door and welcomed you as a guest.  You thanked her.  Surely she wasn’t the host?  Who is hosting this party anyway?  In fact, what was it that brought you here in the first place?  That’s strange.

Oh well, just chalk it up to a lack of sleep, or a lack of caffeine.  After all, these holiday parties start to feel white-washed after a while, like nameless responsibilities hosted by, and populated with, ghosts.

2

You can smell the gin on her breath as she opens her mouth.  Her face is flushed, eyes glassy… maybe not though, that could just be how they normally are. When people have big eyes like that it’s sometimes hard to tell.  Especially when they’re blue.  It might just be the way the lights are reflecting off of her irises.  Or maybe she just came back in from smoking and she’s readjusting to being indoors.  She looks like she’s a smoker, you think.  But what does that even really mean?  That’s just you being unfair and judgmental, yes, definitely that.  But it’s not like there’s anything really wrong with smoking, right?  So why would you even think there’s anything judgmental about that?  Or is there something wrong with it?  Well, clearly you must think so if you assumed that you passed an unfair judgment without having any evidence beyond her appearance…and her breath.  Well what is it about her appearance that made you think that?  Was it her hair?  Maybe her complexion?  What the hell are you even thinking about?  And why does it matter? She approached you, so clearly she must have something to say.  Maybe she wants you.  That wouldn’t be so bad…  you don’t like smoking, but she’s attractive enough and who even knows if she’s a smoker anyway?  At this point, that’s just an empty presumption.  You’re surprised that you can smell the gin.  There was that terrible cold that you just got over, you had to call out of work for two days because you couldn’t even taste or smell anything that you were making.  You feel bad for whomever it was that ordered the Bolognese this past week, it definitely was under-seasoned.  Who even drinks gin anymore?  Isn’t that passé?  That kind of went out of style, didn’t it?  Whiskey’s the new thing these days.  There was that article the other day talking about the imminent shortage of bourbon next year if sales keep increasing.  That makes sense, you think. Gin really just kind of tastes like scotch tape and Christmas trees.  Though you did have that gin fizzy drink a while back that was made with some small batch herbal botanical type gin-thing and egg whites.  Who was it that made that for you?  You were at some other holiday party, couldn’t have been that long ago.  Actually…was that earlier tonight?  Man, it feels like you’ve been at this party for ages. This woman’s breath definitely is more of the scotch tape and Christmas tree variety gin, some well drink from the bar over there.  Hopefully she’s had gin and she doesn’t just breathe out this fiery booze smell constantly. That could be the sign of an illness, you remember reading about something to do with metabolism that caused people to have breath that smells like fermented raspberries.  That’s definitely not what this smell is, but maybe it’s some version of that?  Anyway, what does this skinny woman with glassy blue eyes want with you?  Maybe she’s trying to get by you, what’s on the table behind you?  Well those are some nice bottles, and oh…there’s the radio.  That must be it.  You skirt to the side to let ole gin breath here pass you by and get to the radio but she doesn’t move.  Uh-oh, did she say something and you didn’t hear it?  Had she asked you a question that you had inadvertently ignored while you were busy thinking about her smoking habits?  Maybe you’re just making that up.  It was probably a cough.  Though you probably would have noticed her cough because you’re thinking about her smoking so much.  Goddamnit, you’re so stupid, who cares about the smoking anyway?  So stupid.  Just let her get the words out so you can see what she wants with us anyway.  Wait…Us?  What’s us?  Who’s us?  Who’s this “us” that we’re talking about now?  Shouldn’t it just be “I”?  Or who was “you”? Am I you?  Are we us?  Great, we’ve, I’ve, you’ve really done it now.  I guess I, you, me, we never really thought about it that way before?  Have we been talking like this the whole time?  What does that mean?  Should I, we, be concerned?  Are we…us…am I okay?  Woof, take a breath.  Man, we, I need to drink.  But we, us, me don’t even drink that often now do we, us, I?  Oh boy, you’re…we’re in a real pickle now.  Oh no, how long have we, I been standing here? She must have said something by now.  Apparently she’s interested in us, me, because she’s still standing there.  Maybe I, we, us, me, you should offer her a drink?  She definitely wants gin, we know that much.  But where is the gin?  How are we, I, you, supposed to find that, all we, I, us, me, have behind us are those gaudy whiskey carafes.  And what if she thinks it’s lame for us, me to offer her that? Last place we, I, you were at only had whiskey. What is it that we’re, I’m, drinking right now anyway, and who made it for me, us?  Was it him?  That guy over there talking to the black guy with the scarf?  He looked at you, us…I, me, in a way we, I, you didn’t feel too comfortable about.  But it’s not because he’s black, I’m not…we’re not…you’re not racist or anything.  Grampa was though, that vicious bastard.  We like this drink better than that gin one I was thinking about earlier, kind of sweet and smokey.  Oooh, smokey! Maybe she’ll go for that, I should try to find whoever made it for me and come back to her when I, we, us, you have it all put together a little more.  But usually I’m, you’re, we’re successful when we, I, you just sort of let the words fall out of…

Tapping you, I, us, on the shoulder, the thin waif with the eyes of a blue million miles and breath like a gin-soaked daisy field parts her red lips and requests a cigarette.

*Lark Lurks by Josh Vidal*

Domesticated Primate release DP004: This is a 100+ page poem by a writer/musician who chose to credit himself as Josh Vidal for this work. It’s hallucinatory with heavy imagery and a strong rhyme scheme cleverly obscured by the formatting of the stanzas.  The cover was done by artist John Steele.  I have collaborated with this artist many times, usually musically.  This read is a real trip, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of tangled up imagery without many answers.  Below I have included a few stanzas from the beginning of the book.

I.

Working word. Chirping bird. Pleasantly complacent. Three times. Dirty socks. 9 short of 30 knocks and shouting.

A vacant place to blanket space. No temptation. Slow sensation. Random man. Tandem plan. No thank you.

Jubilant parade of mass. Gentle as a blade of grass. Wait for the charade to pass. Even all destruction can be building. Translucent figures pass your eyes and tally to amass your lies. Judged without a wig and robe & nudged about a hidden globe. In and out, you pass and go. To some, it’s just a fashion show but I have seen the passion glow and grow in all and nothing. Participate. A cycle known. I won’t need a microphone or microscope or spite to cope. A telescope or telegraph. A telephone or metronome. Just a home. We’re nesting.

Happy trails, sappy tales and hats off!

Carted to infantile spin. Leave me to my gentile skin. I won’t partake in blood or meat for idols.

Dicey knees and pricey fees. Sighing for relief. Date like a countdown.

Crawling on the carpet. Sectioned from the hardwood. Mom hit a pothole. Arm got scarred good.

Bound.

A slave.

Found.

To save.

Around a grave matter.

Chitter.

Chatter.

Gabriel has made me still. In mountains of saints like dogs. By the tracks. I eye the stacks. Smothered dragon. Covered wagon or a plane. Sure to gain an entrance. Maybe on this afternoon- I’ll be hearing laughter soon. This game is tedious. I’m glad it’s over. Tree of life. Forbidden fruit. Digging for the hidden loot. Pass the shovel. Dusty boots. Shaking off the rusty roots. Rain can mingle on about with metal. Sepulture low/High on God. Defy on, odd. So righteous.

You Try my best.

To Die.

I rest.

When time comes.

Repeating. Deleting. Defeating. Depleting. Official.

You know what they do to such kind of men who knew too much. Well at least they try.

Everything varies.

*What’s Next? by Nick LeBlanc, Brandon Cabral*

Domesticated Primate release DP005: Brandon is a photographer who works solely with film.  I wrote the play that accompanies his photographs about information theory and the role that time, decay, and relativity play in the processing of information.  Much of my inspiration was taken from quantum theory and philosophical thought experiments such as Maxwell’s Demon and Schroedinger’s Cat.  Brandon’s work with expired film was the basis for this theme, where he explores the effect that decaying film has on the capturing of a given image.  Meaggsy again collaborated with us in creating clay figurines of the two main characters that were used in an installation version of the piece.  This release is an 8×8 coffee table style book and is one of the more conceptually ambitious pieces we’ve done.  The idea was to bring the experience of a stage show to a book.  Below I have included one image and it’s corresponding dialog from the release.

fff

ERWIN: (sarcastically) You’ve convinced me. I’ll leave a nickel on the table.
MAXWELL: These kids…don’t even know what they got now.
ERWIN: Adolescent hope.
MAXWELL: In the air. (sniffles)
ERWIN: Intractable.
MAXWELL: Unlovable.
ERWIN: I know, I know, I know.
MAXWELL: The shadow of a giant.
ERWIN: My mistake.

*OUROBOROS by Nick LeBlanc*

Domesticated Primate release 006: OUROBOROS is a poetry collection.  The poems are all thematically linked through discussion of time, hidden intentions, memory, the infinite return, and some other strange ideas.  It’s a collection I am very proud of, I feel that with t I have accomplished a true poetry collection in the classic sense, where one piece is essentially linked to the next, and that they all build toward a short, and surprisingly hopefully climax.  Below I have included the title poem from the collection which ends on a half finished sentence, a thought meant to be completed by the first line of the poem.

OUROBOROS

just an image.

in late summer, standing on a back porch.
the deck is unfinished,
splinters tug at the bottom of our feet,
the adults wear sandals
but I am barefoot, indestructible,
my feet callused over from the hot sand and broken seashells
at grandmother’s beach.

–now, be careful not to drag your toes or you’ll be bleeding,

I’m already bleeding
from a mosquito bite on my left leg.
it was very humid this afternoon but now the breeze has picked up.
oak trees, elm trees,
rain from last night collected in puddles in the forest behind the house.
marinated steak sizz-izz-izz-izzzling on a charcoal grill.
my lungs hurt,
we were playing volleyball,
we were playing tag,
we were filling buckets with dirt.
now they are playing wiffleball,
and I am bleeding.
they are playing.

my shirt is wet from sweat,
my shorts are wet from sweat,
the inside of my legs are a rash
from the netting in my bathing suit.

–cochon! cochon! petit cochon! honkyhonky-honk!

digging in a freezer, there’s a pie, peanut butter pie.
I can smell Freon.
there are ice crystals on my fingertips.
my fingers are icicles.
my arms are icicles.
my hair like a spider, prickling my forehead, tickling the tip of my nose.
pastrami and sandwich spread and magazines.
grandmother’s lotion.
washing my hands.

a dream/memory of adolescence–

muscles weak from fighting salt water,
feet sinking in sand,
shards of broken cockle shells stab at the arches of my feet,
knees skinned,
small bits of rock and shell cling to my shins,
held there by clotting blood,
my sunburnt lips crack
as I open my mouth
and call for my parents,
they stand just above a seaweed line
created a few hours earlier
during high tide.

my father with his big glasses and rough palms
holds out his hand, beckoning me.

my sandals lost in the ocean, pried from my feet by low tide’s rank muck,
carried away by the riptide.
waves kicking at my heels,
I see a jellyfish,
its tentacles taunting me,
the stinging rash on my back reminding me of its extraterrestrial danger,
my feet slide deeper in the shore’s unsteady sand
craggy pebbles tuck themselves into the webbing between my toes.
I try to lift a foot and fall to my knees again,
more blood.
the wedding ring on my father’s thick finger shines in the oppressive glare of the mid-afternoon sun.

His fingers curl and extend as he calls me up the beach, brushing sand off of his shorts carried there by wind, tumbled from a dune somewhere behind where my mother contentedly sits, rummaging through the cooler,
a cigarette dangling between her full lips.

–hurry up!

tennis balls pounding on a brick wall,
hot dogs & sour candy,
soles of sandals slippery and sandy
broken glass & cigarette butts,
a lawnmower kicks to life and paints the air green.
bouncing on the corner of an inflated dinghy,
three hole punched paper, reinforced.
swinging a small mallet at a rock,
minerals chipping and flying into your eye,
sand in my eye,
salt in my eye,
bathing suits,
standing in water—waist deep,
arms crossed over my chest,
hands buried in my armpits.

a school bus confession & sea glass smashing on a windshield.

–he’s my friend, not yours.
& a punch in the mouth.

peeling skin off of my back,
the shower pelting my skin,
punishing me.
naked at a pond with my best friend
chasing cocker spaniels and picking leeches off of my legs.
watching a crab’s shell turn red in boiling water.
getting an ice cream headache from vanilla and strawberry soft serve,
cherry-dipped.

sweat dampening pants,
sliding in desk chairs in late june.
thighs raw.

Remembering or Imagining?

in a classmate’s pool, watching ___’s bathing suit fall off playing chicken,
at the beach, watching ___’s bathing suit fall off in the waves,
at the pond, seeing right through ___’s bathing suit,
in Dad’s pool pulling ___’s bathing suit off,
& more & more & more…

sweating and hungover, the road was pitted & potholed,
plastic from the fender cracked off,
climbing on rocks, telling lies,
listening to stories about other people at other times,
knowing those times were better,
knowing those times were longed for,
we watch a puppy crawl in between us,
and the wind starts blowing.

I’m
throwing up in the back of a hot dog shop,
she’s
wearing an expensive skirt,
I’m
bloated from drinking,
she’s
tired from running a mile that morning,
I’m
hoping my parents didn’t hear us,
she’s
defending me to her father.

I’m wrong. She’s right.

Travelling or Remembering?

in the future, in a foreign place, with needles stuck in my bottom lip,
I met the woman who had married me.
she told me about him:
she had divorced him and was travelling around the world with her best friend.
she told him that he had become successful and well-respected,
that he loved women
but that he couldn’t be loved,
that he wouldn’t let her love him,
or any of his other lovers love him,
that he wouldn’t let anyone love him,
even his own son.
because he was afraid,
like a child.

–those cliffs will crumble, so be careful.

at a desk,
blue carpeted walls—waist high,
a glass of water sweating,
leaving the impression of an incomplete circle,
one end chasing the other,
like a dragon—like me,
like a snake—like me,
like an ouroboros.

Simultaneously consuming
And creating
Myself.

is that why I neurotically pick my cuticles?
is that why I eat the skin?
is that why I fill my body with substances?
is that why I destroy my body with chemicals?
can I complete the circle?
how?
is the answer in the past?
in the past, sitting in a desk
in class
with a hard-on
having daydreams
about
the future,
willing myself into that eventuality.

is that why my private wishes always seem to come true?
is that why I’m forced to live out my fantasies?
let me tell you how quickly a fulfilled wish can crumple you.
let me tell you how quickly a wish fulfilled can crumple you.
let me tell you.

–hoo boy, let me tell you.

Is it a matter of creating or a matter of remembering?
Why can I remember the past and anticipate the future?
Am I remembering a memory?
Or reminding myself of an eventuality?
Can my creation be original?
Or am I simply reminding a creation of itself?
Is the power in perception?
I know I can create, I think
and
I think I know I can remember, right?
Or at least I feel like I can remember

Or maybe it’s

**CLOSING NOTE**

So, that’s what we’ve done so far.  I’m ready to move forward.  Are you?

All of these works are available for purchase.  If you’d like to get your hands on one, reach out to me at nickdleblanc@gmail.com.


LEARN

I have recently released a poetry collection entitled, “Ouroboros.”  The poems are all thematically linked through discussion of time, hidden intentions, memory, the infinite return, and some other strange ideas.  It’s a collection I am very proud of, I feel that with t I have accomplished a true poetry collection in the classic sense, where one piece is essentially linked to the next, and that they all build toward a short, and surprisingly hopefully climax.  I do have copies available for sale if anyone is interested, they’re only $5 a pop.

The following poem is included in that collection.  It originated when I had been asked to write a piece on “Empowerment” for a small group I was speaking in front of in early summer.

I had trouble writing a traditionally empowering piece; trying both something that functioned to empower a certain community, and earnestly commenting on the importance of empowerment in progressive philosophy.  Instead, I found myself commenting on empowerment as an ideal, and our society’s prickly relationship with it.  Hopefully the tricky balance of black humor/seriousness comes across as I intended.

I share this poem today as its relevance has recently deepened and I am feeling uncomfortable about the future.

Learn:

A bird singing in a cage is silenced by a pen piercing its heart,
Thrown by a drunk man flipping through late night infomercials on television.

Click, click

“Empower Mints!
Try our new Empower Mints!
The only surefire way to self confidence!
Supply and demand, that’s our motto!
Just pop one of our tasty mints and feel the burden of patriarchal oppression melt away!
Now available through your local snake oil salesman!
Liberate yourself…through consumption of our goods!
Empower Mints!”

Click, click.

BEWARE!
Freedom is not possible.
I repeat, freedom is not possible.
Do you understand?

Click, click.

We are bound to acquiescence,
Whether it be by politeness,
Or privilege,
Or panic,
Or paranoia,
We are bound.
Our time is limited,
Our bodies will perish,
And then decay.
It is inevitable.

Click, click.

And you,
Do you dare defect?
Well, good luck to you, fine sir!
Prepare to be ostracized.
Prepare to be judged.
Prepare to let go of sentimentality
Prepare to resent the soul-suffocating burden of happy memories.
Prepare
To be unprepared
For the
Repercussions
Of that.

Click, click

“Enlighten Mints!
From the maker of Empower Mints!
Guaranteed transcendence!
Keep consuming, that’s our motto!
Just one of our tasty mints will send you floating miles above the murky mire of societal expectation!
Available wherever fast food is sold!
Liberate your mind…through consumption of our goods!
Enlighten Mints!”

Click, click.

The television turns off, the screen blackens.

Early morning’s light
Peeks in through blinds,
Illuminating the sleeping drunk’s
Fat stomach.
The dead bird
Bleeds out
At the bottom of its cage,
Silently.

We must LEARN or
Spend our time worshipping false gods,
Their skin painted orange,
Their faces made up, an illusion of humanity,
A facade manufactured
By a focus group
In the basement
Of a large corporate complex
Full of men
In stuffy suits
Sick with radiation from microwaves and cell phones
At a conference table under fluorescent lighting,
Spines curved and asses chapped
With saddle sores
From sitting in office chairs
And staring at computer screens.

We must UNDERSTAND why the dead bird bleeds.
We must KNOW why the dead bird bleeds.
We must LEARN.

Or become it.

On Being Fat:

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The ‘666’ benches at UMass Dartmouth.  Brutalist style Architecture by Paul Rudolph.

On October 28th, I turned 28 years old and for most of those 28 years, I have been fat.  I say “fat” because it scares me.  “Overweight” is a much more easily digestible word—ah, puns.  Saying you’re overweight feels more acceptable, like it’s a temporary stage in between periods of fitness.  Almost like a season.  And if being overweight is a season, it would surely be winter.  I say this for two main reasons; winter is the season in which animals hibernate and pack on pounds—namely bears, which I have often been compared to—and, as anyone unlucky enough to have been fat during a humid summer knows, there is almost nothing more unbearable.  In fact, on those humid days in the summer, you almost fantasize that someone will come with a giant knife and carve the fat off of you because the pain of that temporary flesh wound is more tolerable than the agonizingly annoying experience of standing still and sweating for no apparent reason.

Most of my fat is carried around my waist, particularly in the love handles.  My face also takes some of the weight as well as the upper portion of my arms and a little in the chest.  Though I should acknowledge the fact that I am lucky enough to have my fat resting on a particular large and muscular frame.  I am 6’1 with a 53 in chest, a 20ish inch neck, and a massive cranium.  My legs are enormous but solid.  I have a history of participating in high-level athletics and intense weightlifting, power-lifting and Olympic style lifts specifically.  Though my exercising has significantly dropped off in the past few years, my body is mostly solid, save for some specific areas.  So the reality is that even if I dropped all of my excess weight, I would be well over 200 pounds.

I’ve always been a large human.  I was just over 23 inches and about 9lbs when I was born, always one of the tallest in my elementary and middle school until high school and college where my frame was still larger than most, but had somewhat normalized as I was encountering more peers who were roughly my size or larger.

My size has been one of the defining characteristics of my personality.  It has made me cautious of antique furniture—always slightly paranoid that it may be utterly destroyed by my large frame, keenly aware of personal space—as I’ve always felt like I’m invading someone else’s, and completely contemptuous of shopping for clothes—it’s rare to find something that fits someone with my frame that doesn’t look absolutely ridiculous (ie, the shoulders of a shirt fit but the stomach is a tent, or the waist fits fine but the thighs and crotch practically neuter me).

Some of the earliest memories I have—probably because they were so painful at the time—were of some older male cousins making fun of me when I took my shirt off at my great aunt’s pool.  I remember in pre-school a crush liking a friend of mine over me and being utterly convinced it was because I was fat.  I remember not being able to wear the popular clothes that my classmates wore because they didn’t fit me right, and not getting to have the “cool” haircuts that I wanted because my face was far too big for them to look right.

Of course I recognize now that the haircuts and clothing were silly issues, but it felt isolating, and made this lower-middle-class-too-smart-for-his-own-good only child feel completely isolated and horribly alone.  These early incidents were some of the first fuel for the repressed self-hatred and neuroses that would start to devour me years later.

My chubbiness, and my nerdiness, got me plenty of bullying and the occasional after-school rough-up, but perhaps more damagingly, it made me hyper self-conscious.  I was always concerned with how I was looking or what others may think of me.  It didn’t help that family members were always offering up comments about what I should and shouldn’t be eating to help lose some pounds.  I have one particularly sad memory of being on the large trampoline outside of my grandmother’s house, lying on my back, looking up at the darkening sky on an early autumn evening and wishing to the stars that I wouldn’t be alone forever, that there would be someone who would want me the way I wanted them to, who would love me in the ways I was incapable of loving myself.

Around this same time, my elementary school had started to do aptitude tests with me and suggested to my parents that they skip me from 3rd grade to 5th and move me to the Advanced Placement program at another city school.  I was completely insecure, unhappy with the way I looked, terrified of being ostracized, and paralyzed with a Sartre-esque neurotic fear of how other people saw me, and now they wanted to move me to another school in a whole other grade where I’d be almost two full years younger than everyone else?  It was a legitimate nightmare for me.

My parents decided against moving me, or skipping me the grades, allowing me to make the decision for myself.  In reality, it probably would have been the best move for me.  Maybe I would have been challenged early on and developed studying skills, and you know, learned how to be a student?  Anyhow, that didn’t happen and I remained at Charles S. Ashley Elementary school, a neurotic and pudgy overthinker.

The insecurity about my weight led to a realization that many fat people have, particularly fat males; if you’re funny or clever, people won’t pay as much attention to your weight—or at least it feels that way.  In reality you’re still the fat kid, except now you’re funny so people want to be around you more.  Being naturally adept in the classroom, class clowning came fairly easily.  I could goof off in class and still manage to pull high marks, As with the occasional B, and a near constant C in conduct.  I was never a true class clown, rarely getting detentions, never getting suspended.  I just wouldn’t pay attention in class, and would hope that my wit would get the attention of girls I had a crush on, and maybe even get them to like me…oh gosh! 

What’s ironic is that my self-hatred and neuroses were so pervasive that even if a girl had shown interest in me, I would have been too doubtful of my own position to recognize it.  Instead, I would hope that the personality I was fabricating—to protect my true sensitive self, in part—would be what they would latch onto.  Who could ever like the nerdy and sensitive fat kid?  The thought was absurd.  So instead, I acted out.  Sometimes I wonder how many crushes, friendships, and relationships I rebuffed with that type of behavior between elementary school and college.

This personality issue was compounded as I flew through puberty and into college; relying on relationships with women to determine my self-worth, being incapable of facing rejection, staying in relationships I had no reason to be in due to only the paralyzing fear of abandoning a partner and the prospect of being alone again.  Self-worth was at zero, brash personality at 100, and my weight still above average.  Even when I’ve been in my absolute best shape, from late high school to mid college, I have felt fat.  It’s a nasty self-image problem that I drilled into my own head, which came back around with guns blazing, attempting to destroy any ounce of self-confidence and self-worth that I managed to muster up.  In place of that self-worth I developed an attitude which often came off as arrogant.

Truthfully, it was an almost satirical position for me to take.  I wasn’t actually an arrogant person, in fact I was cripplingly insecure.  The arrogance was a front in which I could simultaneously protect myself and lampoon the generally self-centered approach to life that I felt most of my peers had adopted.  The only problem was that I hadn’t let many people in on the joke, and I was too insecure to be comfortable enough explaining myself.  What if someone else liked my fake-self better than my real-self?  I felt that I couldn’t afford to lose that opportunity.  So instead, my personality remained nebulous and my behavior confusing.  After all, in my own head I was fat, and no one wanted fat people to be around them. What’d Vonnegut warn about?  Something like, be careful of what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.

This perhaps exhibited itself most dramatically in college.  By this time I had figured out how to get what I physically desired from a woman without opening up and risking being found out as the fat and nerdy kid who cries sometimes.  I was acting.  The closeness of a physical relationship, even if only temporarily, provided another haven for me from my own fiercely judging eyes.  I could use my own self-hatred to fuel whatever yarn I was spinning in order to get to the result I wanted and I could feel okay about it because at least the woman I was with liked me, if only for that moment.  It was a way to build what I thought was self-worth.  I recognize now that it was empty, a fact I probably recognized then as well.  But, it was easier to pretend and carry on. It was all such a vicious cycle.

Last Saturday I went to Cable Car Cinema in Providence and saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead.  It was a fantastic experience, anyone who likes film, or movies, or art for that matter should make it a point to see that in a theater.  The sound system was absolutely jacked, the walls were literally shaking.  Anyone who is familiar with that film knows the sound is the most important part, it unsettles you, and at one point during the concluding portion of the film, it unrepentantly devastates you.  [spoilers here for you lame-os that would complain about not having seen a 40 year old movie yet] After Henry kills his child and the electricity starts to short, there’s a crescendo, some unholy combination of organ, industrial noise, and the cries of a baby (and maybe wild animals?) that sustains for what feels like an eternity.  While the sound is eviscerating you—my seat was actually shaking it was so loud—images start to flash that are at the very least disquieting.

The film had completely swallowed me, I didn’t know what to do with myself, it almost felt like I was going to die, or explode, or have a heart attack, and that’s when I noticed it.  My natural reaction to the discomfort was to take the collar of my t-shirt and hold it in my lips.  BOOM!  It was in that moment that I had an out-of-body experience and saw myself neurotically putting something into my mouth when I felt supremely uncomfortable.

So, “Why am I still fat?” I ask myself.

“Habit,” I reply.

It was in that moment in the theater that something became very clear to me about my fatness.  Though slow metabolism may have been the reason why I was a fat child, the neurotic behavior I had adopted as a coping mechanism had fulfilled my own prophecy and kept me an overweight teenager and now, an overweight twenty-something.  All I had been doing for years was providing myself with more fuel for self-hatred and doubt, standing in my own way, creating a problem for myself when there needn’t be one.  And now, here I am recognizing that I have basically trained myself to be fat.

After a few years of turmoil, and now reaping the benefits of taking responsibility for my own life, I no longer am a fat person in my own mind.  I am able to talk about my painful memories because I understand that they shaped me, but they don’t define me.  I am unafraid of sharing my insecurities because I now understand it as empowering, not self-defeating.  I have been able to shed those walls of personality that I built up around myself and I work every day to develop a better relationship with myself and my family/friends/community.  But, I am still fat.  Currently, I am lighter than I’ve been at my heaviest, but I’m still fatter than I would like to be.

Why?

It’s easy to see why food is so good at comforting us, it causes our bodies to dump a bunch of chemicals that make our brains scream, “Fuck yeah!”  It puts an exciting item in our mouths, so we don’t have to worry about something stupid coming out of it.  It’s something we can do by ourselves while we’re still around other people—so it doesn’t feel quite so lonely.  It’s an engaging experience.  And worst of all, it’s an easy habit to defend; “I’m hungry,” or, “I didn’t eat breakfast.”  What’s funny is that as a fat child, you are deprived of certain foods or treats, you don’t get to have the soda or the cake, and adults make you feel bad for wanting them, You know, that’ll only make you even more husky!  So then, the food becomes more desirable and even more comforting, so you sneak an extra cookie and run to your bedroom to eat it, just because you feel shameful for desiring it.

Woah, shame.  I hadn’t thought of it that way until I just wrote that word down in the last paragraph.  Shame for being fat, shame for being different, shame for wanting the same foods that your peers do, and shame that you’re denied them.  Shame for your self-hatred, and shame for the shitty way you cope with it.  Hmm…

Being fat is a funny thing.  Other people remember you by it, you constantly get the dreaded, “How ya doin’, big guy?”  You even start to resent the cutesy politeness that some people take in trying to avoid talking about your size, “He’s like a teddy bear!”  You start to wonder how many people are looking at you and thinking, “Yeah, he’d be totally cute if he wasn’t fat,” or, “Yeah, I like being around him, but I don’t like big guys,” and there’s even the devastating face-to-face, “You’re just not my type,” aka, “You’re fat and that’s gross.”  Many fat people become over-thinkers as a result of this, the type who just want to crawl into themselves or disappear into a corner.  But the great irony is that it’s nearly impossible to disappear when you’re one of the most noticeable people in the room.

You do not know what it is like to be fat if you haven’t been fat yourself.  Every time you hear a floorboard creak, you think it’s your fault.  Every time a glass shakes against utensils on a table as you walk by, it had to have been motivated by your excessive weight.  There’s no second thought that the creaking may just be a poorly fastened floorboard in a 100-year old house, or the table that the glass is resting on may have uneven footing, and the people sitting at it may have leaned on it the wrong way.  In the mind of the fat person, everything that could be a result of your weight is a result of your weight.  It’s even embarrassing when someone offers you seconds or a larger portion of a meal.  It does not matter if in reality they’re just generous, or that they’re trying to get rid of extra food.  It’s because you’re fat and fat people eat a lot.  And never mind social media, woof!  Face pictures only, please!  And don’t ever post an image of your food, that’s asking for an avalanche of judgement.

Maybe shame really is the answer. A painful emotion resulting from an awareness of inadequacy or guilt, that’s how shame is defined.  I might alter that definition to include ‘or an awareness of perceived inadequacy or guilt.’  Maybe, in a way, shame has become habitual for me as well?  Just a thought…

The fact is that I don’t enjoy being fat, and I’m not naïve or delusional enough to champion a body-positive position like, Be what you are, we’re all beautiful!  I’m fat today, and I’ve been fat for 28 years.  It’s been one of the defining factors of my existence and I don’t want that to be the case anymore.  Though now, in my mind, what I look like when I glance into a mirror, and who I am when I envision myself are two different people.  And now, I think I’m just mature enough to understand that I am the only one capable of making that change.

I’m not writing an inspirational piece here claiming, I’m gonna change, and I’m gonna do it now!  In fact, I don’t really want to change much, only one thing really.  I don’t eat too poorly, I do compulsively eat occasionally, but I really don’t exercise enough.  I walk an awful lot, but that’s not enough to effect the type of change I desire.  So, I need to exercise, probably to run.  When I’ve regularly run in the past I have really enjoyed it.  I totally get a runner’s high—blame my addictive personality—and I like the exhaustion and restful sleep that comes after a good workout.  I’m just a poor self-starter when it comes to exercise, probably because I often find myself feeling mentally exhausted.  Maybe because I’m guilty of over-extending myself, but that’s another issue entirely.

Almost 3 decades is enough.  I’ve forced enough foreign and domestic laborers to make extra-large clothes for longer than I consider fair—though in reality, I’ll probably always be at least an XL, not a XXL-Tall as I currently am, sorry laborers.  Addiction psychology says that change only happens when you A) Truly want it to, or B) Truly have to.  And if I have understood my position correctly, that my fatness is a habit, I guess what I’m saying is that I want to quit being fat before I have to.

Short Story: Johnny & Annabelle

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Edgewater Road in Fairhaven, MA minutes before Hurricane Hermine hit.

I wrote this a few months back for inclusion in a small literary zine.  There is a short post-script and an invitation to take part in a writing exercise after the story.  Enjoy!

Johnny & Annabelle

Johnny’s knees were shaking, it had been two years since he had last seen Annabelle. Sure, they’d sent some letters to one another, but what’s a letter when compared to an embrace? Johnny’s mind was spinning. What if it felt awkward when he hugged her? Would she still fit perfectly in his arms? All of the push-ups he was forced to do in basic training made that seem unlikely. Does she still have the same haircut, that short brown bob that perfectly framed her heart shaped face, and her big, round hazel-green eyes sparkling under her long, dark lashes?

They hadn’t been together since September of 1943, he had spent the last two years kicking around somewhere in Eastern Asia. Johnny was resistant to war, and until he enlisted, he would have considered himself a pacifist. But when he saw the clips of that German fascist psychopath waving his hands around and sending thousands of innocent people to be cooked in ovens and choked with poison, he couldn’t help but sign up. He felt it was his civic duty.

Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t sent to fight the hordes of leather-clad fascists that he had hoped for, instead the US Army had decided that his bachelor’s degree in accounting would better serve them on the Pacific front, aiding his commanding officers with tactical math as they attempted to guide themselves through the thick foreign darkness of the Orient’s jungled wilderness.

It had been two long years since he and Anna lay under his parent’s over-grown magnolia tree and had eaten cucumber sandwiches and drank sweet tea. Two unbearable years that he had not held his love’s perfectly manicured hands and kissed her bright red lips, plump and salty with tears.

“Just don’t go back Johnny,” she had said, “They can make it without you! I need you! Here! Now!”

Annabelle had been right, they hadn’t needed him. All he had done was help cut through brush and draw some dotted lines on maps. He had barely seen any violence, save for the two burnt-out farming villages they had run across on their seemingly never-ending trek through the Asian forests.

As soon as Truman had made the decision back in August to drop a couple of big ones on Japan, the war had effectively ended which had made Johnny even more useless.  So now, three months later, after some medical evaluations and lots of time in airplanes, he was back in Texas standing outside of Rosie’s Roadside, a silver-sided de-commissioned passenger train car turned diner. He knew Annabelle would be working, her parents had told him so.

“Here goes nothin’,” he muttered to himself, nervously wrenching his hands around a bouquet of red roses and bright yellow daffodils, in his uniform pocket a velvet-lined case containing an opal necklace he had bought for Anna with part of his military bonus on the way home during a stop-over in France.

Bells hanging on the back of Rosie’s heavy glass-and-metal door jangled as Johnny pushed his way through, his perfectly shined shoes coming down with a click-clack on the black and white tiled floor. Patrons looked up from their meals toward the broad-shouldered young man standing in full military regalia, eyes matching the blue of his jacket, holding a large batch of flowers bursting with reds and yellows at his chest. There was Old Mr. Watson, and his farm-hand Jessum stirring fresh cream into mugs of muddy coffee, white beards stained a rusty brown from the smoke of the pipes dangling from their lips.

“Hi Johnny,” said Jessum, pulling the pipe from his lip and smiling, “Been a long time since we seen you round these parts, there’s some space for ya down T’bacca Row if yer lookin’ for some workin’.”

“Thanks Jessum. How’s it goin’ Watson?” replied Johnny, settling down at a stool by the bar.

“Crop good. Soil been dry, gon’ get wetter soon,” Watson raised the mug to his lips, “Coffee still ’bout as holy as a whore on Good Friday, but I figure it keeps me wakin’ and rakin’ all the same.”

Johnny smiled politely, spinning on his stool and turning his smiling face toward the frumpy middle-aged waitress behind the bar.

“Hi Ed,” he said gently, “Anna out back?”

“Johnny-boy, nice to see you in town now that gat-dung war’s over. She’s catchin’ some air, it’s hotter than the blazes back here today, want me to let her know you’re lookin’ for her? She’ll be squealin’ like a gat-dung baby hog when she done see your handsome young face hangin’ there all smiles and teeth-like.”

“No, no. Just tell her someone’s here to see her.”

Ed slid a plate of blackberry pie and a tall glass of cold milk to Johnny–his childhood favorite–and turned on her heels, storming back through the kitchen to find Anna. Her husband, Charlie the Chef, poked his head through the window to the kitchen.

“Heya John-boy,” he said, his large white teeth beaming, “Pie’s on the house.”

“Thanks Charlie,” said Johnny, plunging his fork into it, watching the crust crack and crumble onto the sticky purple-black of the pie’s filling. It reminded him of a landslide his troop had narrowly avoided during one of the hundreds of torrential rainstorms they experienced in his first year overseas. It would rain for what felt like weeks, and then there would be fog, thicker fog than he had ever seen at home, the type of fog where your shirt gets damp just from walking through it. Then, a day or two later there would be more rain. If Old Watson was having trouble with drought, Johnny though to himself, maybe he should move his crop over to the Orient.

“Johnny!”

Annabelle. It was her! Beautiful Annabelle! His life. His love. The image he had kept in his mind every day and night. The outline he had drawn in the sand on the beach while sitting by his lantern during his second year encampment. His motivation for staying strong when they ran out of food and were forced to eat raw fish and seaweed–he never could understand what the Oriental troops seemed to like so much about that. Oh Anna, it really was her! That face. That beautiful face! That same face he had seen smiling back at him when he was hallucinating, delirious from dysentery, doubled over, rolling back and forth on the ground in his tent, praying for the stomach pain to subside. That face. That perfect face! Here she was. Finally.

“Your hair, it–it’s longer!” he exclaimed, hands shaking with excitement.

“Why don’t you two love-birds go take a seat in the corner over there and do some catch-up,” said Ed, grinning from ear to ear, “let ol’ Edna here fix you up a nice lunch.”

“Do you not like it?” Anna asked, tucking one of her loose curls behind her ear, plopping into a corner booth, “I can cut it like it was before if—“

“Oh nonono, you look beautiful!” Johnny said, face beaming, his eyes tearing up and throat tightening, “I’m just so happy to be–”

SHWAPSHHHHH!!!! Rosie’s front door flew open, its metal frame snapping off of its top hinge and smashing into a table, sending glass shattering across the diner. A wiry figure dressed in black stood just inside the door’s frame. His thin and scraggly brown hair tumbled over a jagged scar that ran across the front of his forehead and down over his right eyebrow. Underneath it, his eye twinkled; a pearlescent blue marble veined with deep purple streaks.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” asked Johnny, standing up and reaching across the table and grasping Annabelle’s hand.

“I think,” stammered Anna, “I think I–what was that?”

“Some guy, I don’t–,” said Johnny, dumbfounded, staring at the stranger, his reply interrupted by Old Watson pointing at the man in the doorframe and shouting, “Well daggumit, you done got glass in my eggs!”

Ed popped her head up from behind the bar, where she had ducked to avoid the thick shards of flying glass, “Aw, don’t go and blame him, Watty!  That door’s been needin’ repairs for ages now,” she said, brushing broken glass off of the counter and putting a plate and coffee mug at a bar stool in front of her.

“Everythin’ alright out there?” shouts Charlie from inside the kitchen, bacon sizzling on the griddle in front of him.

“Ain’t but that gat-dung door Charlie, done scared me and this nice man here half ta death,” she layed utensils out on either side of the plate and filled the empty mug with coffee, “Now why don’t ya have a sit right there mister and we’ll done get that taken care of for–”

Ed’s reply was abruptly silence by the stranger as he grabbed the butter knife from his freshly-laid table setting and violently swung it up under her chin, piercing through the soft underside of her bottom jaw and into her tongue. His hand still on the handle, the stranger jerked the knife further upward again, sending the dull blade through her soft palate and into her brain.

Ed’s normally bowed posture rigidly contorted, jerking backward as if jolted with electricity. Blood ran down her nose and out of the spaces in between her yellowed teeth, bared in a lock-jawed grimace. Her eyelids twitched and fluttered out of sync with one another, like two fleshy moths attempting to flee from her face.

The stranger stood inflexibly, glowering at Ed, drops of her blood flecked across his face.

Ed, body tremoring, took a shambling half-step forward, her knees buckling, posture slackening. With a final bloody exhale, her pupils dilated and her limp body fell to the ground, her skull bouncing off of the black and white tile with a thwack and sending her headband sliding underneath a butcher block stacked with off-white ceramic plates and shining silverware–now dotted with spots of her blood.

A pool of dark crimson formed a halo around Ed’s face. Her cold, open-eyed glare gazed upward into nothing.

The aforementioned post-script and exercise:

I haven’t really written horror stories, and considering ’tis the season, I figured I’d share the closest thing to that genre that I have written.

This was originally intended as a strange little experiment in the shape of stories, i.e. where they should start and end, and the “journey” the characters are supposedly supposed to go on.  It’s interesting what the ending of a story can do to the Set-up.

Considering this particular ending, if you re-read it, hopefully you’ll be in on the joke and interpret the intentional cliches and poofy dialogue as being written with a dark wink and tongue planted firmly in cheek instead of just silly romantic gushing.

At one time I had the idea of turning this into a writing exercise for the classroom:  Imagine this as the first chapter of a two chapter story.  What is the next chapter?

If any reader of this blog would like to submit their second half to the story, I’d love to hear it, and I’ll gladly post the submissions here!!

 

On Nearly Dying:

img_2685This is an essay I had written on October 17th, 2015 and subsequently released in a book of mine–specifically a collection of short works, poetry, and essays–titled, False Profits.

I have given it a quick once-over edit, as part of the original point of writing these essays was to stay true to the moment and not edit any of the material.  Now, being a year away from the project I don’t feel quite as strongly about that so I’ve improved the essay in places that I now find clumsy or redundant.

While I still figure out how to create an online store for my little publishing venture, Domesticated Primate, copies of False Profits are available through contacting me at my e-mail: nickdleblanc@gmail.com

Mention this essay and get 2 bucks off!  You know…marketing?

On Nearly Dying:

“I ‘yam what I ‘yam.”–Popeye the Sailor Man

When I was a freshman in college, I got hit in the back of the head by a hammer throw. Not a hammer being thrown at me by some angry carpenter, but the Olympic sport of hammer throwing–the thing the Trunchbull from Matilda was so adept at. It wasn’t purposely thrown at me, there was a hole in the protective cage around the throwing area through which the implement happened to perfectly soar through as if guided by the hand of an angry God.

The rest of the throwers and I were standing outside of the caged-in throwing circle waiting for our turns to throw. When we heard it hit the cage, and saw it slip right through the hole, we scattered. It was going to hit one of us. It just so happened that I was lucky enough to pick the worst direction to scatter in. Seconds later I felt the punishment of a heavy steel ball slamming into my skull just above my occipital lobe.

I already had at least one official concussion on my personal record from playing football in high school, but this time felt different. When the implement hit me, I all but lost my hearing. There was only a high pitched hum as my field of vision flashed white and faded from clear to blurry to black to blurry and back again. In conversation I usually describe this moment as similar to an old cathode-ray television being turned on, where there’s a quick flash of light accompanied by an electronic hum and the picture fades in slowly.

I hit the ground immediately. The impact wasn’t all that painful but I was in shock. Somehow, I hadn’t lost consciousness. I hopped back up onto my feet as quickly as I could. The hood of my sweatshirt had swung up over my head as I fell and when I peeled it off to check the back of my head with my hand, I immediately felt an abundant warm stickiness. I was bleeding from the head, and it was gushing.

My teammates rushed over to check on me, I heard a few of the women crying (most likely because they thought I had died) and the other guys were asking in chorus, “Nick, are you okay, man? Are you okay, dude?” I don’t remember what I said, all I remember is grabbing a towel from one of their hands, wrapping it around my wound and bounding up to the athletic trainer’s office.

Later, my teammates would go on to make fun of me as my butt-crack had risen above my shorts when I hit the ground, providing the team with a half-moon as they watched me lay on the ground motionless. I secretly resented them for making fun of me for this, this was a much more traumatic event for me than I Was ever comfortable admitting. I wasn’t really comfortable admitting a lot of things at that time.

“I need a trainer,” I said as I walked into the office.

“Is everything okay? What happened? Are you bleeding?”

“I think I’m okay, I got hit in the back of the head with a hammer.”

“And you’re still walking?!” they exclaimed incredulously.

They sent me to the hospital where a doctor gave me a CAT scan, shoved a needle full of local anesthetic in the wound, closed the jagged cut with twelve staples and sent me on my way. They said my skull hadn’t cracked but that I was certain to have a massive concussion. They gave me a prescription for antibiotics and a packet detailing what steps I should take to recover from the concussion and sent me on my way.

That weekend, I made the mistake of going to a party and drinking. It was there that I learned–the hard way–that an antibiotic’s greatest enemy when about four beers later I was projectile vomiting off of a second story porch.

Back then, I honestly never considered the effect that this event may have on me. Apart from the expected jokes–“Maybe it knocked some sense into ya!” “Musta been that thick Polish skull that absorbed that blow.”–the event was rarely discussed and relegated to a good story that I could whip out at parties.

I have spent the past few years trying to make peace with myself and attempting to take a lesson out of my experiences at Holy Cross. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve forced myself to own my decisions, and to take responsibility for my actions. Sometimes it feels like I was another person entirely then, like I’m analyzing some character on a television show or in a novel. I just can’t believe it was me who was there.

Recently my mother and I were talking about my time at Holy Cross and some of the struggles I have gone through since. Luckily, many of the reprehensible and embarrassing decisions I made then have since faded into the distance, but knowing the little she did, she said to me, “Maybe when you got hit in the head it had a bigger effect on you than we wanted to consider at the time. This stopped me in my tracks, I honestly had never really considered the possibility.

These feelings of regret and embarrassment have eaten at me for a long time and now that I’m willing to consider the fact that some of it may be attributed to a head injury, I feel some combination of relief and unease. It’s scary to consider that your personality may have been shaped by something beyond your control. No?

I know the trope, “it’s just college, you were still young!” But that didn’t change the fact that I was saddled with self hatred and beat myself up for years after I finished at Holy Cross. It was a painful time. Maybe I was just confused, misunderstood, and a little anxious about the impression that I had left on a lot of people. I’d like to think that, that’d make me feel a bit better.

Maybe I’m just a poorly adjusted normal guy who thinks too much, or maybe I’m just a well-adjusted lunatic. Whatever and why-ever I am what I am, I’m grateful to be alive and cognizant enough to write an essay about that time my head was almost caved in by a cannonball attached to a 3-foot metal wire.

Reactions to 2016

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Me, reacting.

I have strong reactions.  So strong in fact that occasionally it feels like I will light myself on fire, claw my own eyes out, and throw them at the nearest person if I don’t get some of my thoughts out of my brain.  In lieu of self-immolation or bodily massacre, I often write my reactions down, occasionally sharing them on social media.  I thought it would be a clever idea to round up these reactions from the last year and share them here in chronological order.  I will be actively updating this post as it is only September, and that leaves plenty of time for me to do some reactionary writing, especially with the election in November.  Uh-oh.

The date and context of the reaction are in bold italics so that should give you some clue as to where one thought ends and the next begins.  Though, if this post is supposed to be anything like life, maybe all of these scary and intense thoughts should just blend together into one giant, confusing, and ultimately meaningless hurricane and decimate our existence, damning our poor souls for all of eternity…

2016 has been a year.  Oh boy, has it ever been a year.

Reactions to 2016

1/11/16: Making a Murderer: I’ve been sporadically watching “Making a Murderer” and have a few thoughts:

Though this is a horrifically disturbing account of a justice system in need of serious reforms and accountability safeguards, and that is an important conversation that has to be brought to light and discussed, I can’t help but feel a little disgusted by the reaction I’ve seen to the documentary.

The type of conversation I see about this series–which centers around a VERY white group of people–and the practical consensus that’s been reached about how badly conspiratorial and just plain evil the justice system/law enforcement acted in the Avery case gives me pause…

How come I’m not seeing long police-apologist posts about the actions taken in this case, defending their ineptitude? I’ve come to expect it. Why would we publicize a petition to the White House to free this man–which was a ludicrous idea to begin with, but that’s an entirely different story–are we that comfortable with his innocence?

He openly admitted to dousing a cat in gasoline and throwing it into a fire, he wrote notes to his children saying he was going to kill their mother when he got out of jail because of how she was treating him, and there’s more too!

Why do we seem so torn up with the way this Avery shmuck was treated, but people still support and defend the police and courts in cases like Tamir Rice and Eric Garner? Both cases where there is video evidence of an actual murder taking place with innocent, non-violent people falling victim to police brutality; innocent people who happen to be black. Hmmm…

Is it that there has to be bureaucracy involved for people to take this type of corruption seriously? Do we need to have white DAs and white film-makers and low-IQed white small town residents narrate the tragedy for us to make it real, or to make it okay to admit that sometimes not only is the system fucking up, but it’s ACTIVELY trying to get you?

It frustrates me to see the way that we bias our realities in order to avoid uncomfortable truths and clearly it has frustrated me to the point where I can no longer just sit back and enjoy my murder-porn (as South Park so aptly called it).

But, oh well I guess, who knows, maybe in ten years if I constructed a documentary about mass race-targeting by statewide and federal law enforcement and stretched it out over an unnecessarily slowly paced ten episodes, people would feel a little more comfortable calling things like the Rice and Garner cases exactly what they were.

It’s just so damn confounding sometimes.

1/26/16: Doomsday clock: Given the media’s attention to certain–specifically more modern–doomsday scenarios like biological warfare, natural disaster, economic collapse, and “terrorist” takeover, I sometimes find myself ignoring the fact that there are weapons on this planet capable of utterly devastating the infrastructure and population of our world’s largest cities, as well as radioactively poisoning the gene pools of anyone unlucky enough to be exposed to their fallout.

In my mind, nuclear weapons are paranoid and destructive monuments to humanity’s unbridled will-to-fear. I hate the idea and use of them and I am completely disgusted by their continued use by world political leaders as leverage in some violent–and soon to be irradiated–chess match.

Every year the Doomsday clock announcement acts as a reminder to me of humanity’s most base tendencies: our want to destroy, mutilate, and pillage, all at the expense of our species’ lives and planet. It seems no highly politicized nuclear deal, nor our ‘great’ county’s ‘sustained efforts’ to curb nuclear proliferation can save us now as we remain but three minutes away from our symbolic judgement day.

3/8/16: Capitalism:  Terribly upset to find out that there is an ATM in Antarctica. Our species has managed to infect even the most unlivable part of Earth with our most vicious and cruel disease.

*as an appropriate side-note, it only dispenses US currency.

6/12/16: The Massacre in Florida: It’s interesting to see people’s posts about the massacre in Florida. From the memes of empty support to people rallying against what politicians have or hadn’t said–ironically drawing more attention toward the people whom they are supposedly criticizing. It really has my gears turning.

I just can’t believe that a MASSIVE number of people were shot to death or seriously injured AGAIN in 2016. It reminds me what fantasy world I am either privileged or crazy enough to live in, where I’m allowed to see positivity and hope for change in humanity without too much fear of oppositional violence.

It’s so sad that this happened, I can’t stop thinking about it. But what I’m thinking about isn’t that this happened at a gay club, or that the shooter supposedly pled allegiance to a foreign Anti-American organization (two things of which the media keeps trying to remind me). I’m thinking about people using violence against other people because they don’t know how to express themselves otherwise.

Maybe I’m completely insane, but I actually believe that if people like this shooter were capable of expressing themselves in a non-violent way, they would. I think this is a truth for humanity and I have a strong feeling that the instant propagandizing of tragic situations works to prevent us from reminding ourselves of this thing that I perceive as a universal human truth.

A quick thought experiment:
What if this shooter was a full blooded “Blue Lives Matter” bumper sticker toting, all-out American, Trump-voting, patriot. What if he wasn’t a jihadist bigot, and instead he was positioning himself as the physical embodiment of everything he hates–that he’s sacrificing himself and the lives of a certain number of people just so that his beloved country can rally in support behind the tragedy, finally once-and-for-all putting a stop to these type of tragedies from ever happening again. Almost like he’s Ozymandias from Moore’s Watchmen, or that he’s pulling his own version of the Kennedy-rejected Operation Northwoods.

Let’s imagine this is true, and that the media catches wind of it and turns him into an All-American Hero–someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the moral fiber of his country and its people.

My question is this: What would that change? Would that make him a hero? Would that toss him into the annals of history as a pillar of American strength and fortitude with Washington (an imperialist), Lincoln (a pretend progressive), and FDR (a borderline socialist warhawk)? Would the actions suddenly change from violent and tragic to heroic and brave just because the media understood the facts that way? Is it really all perception?

What do you think?

My answer:
It doesn’t change anything, just like the specific facts of this tragedy don’t matter–just like they didn’t the last time, or the time before that, or the time before that, ad nauseum. I think these “facts” and “details” are the things we tell ourselves to try and feel okay when we’re confused or scared; when the relatively youthful age of our species is exposed and we’re reminded that there is an awful long way to go before fear can disappear and true progress–evolutionarily, socio-economically, culturally–can happen.

What I’m saying is that I feel like we’re searching for a larger or deeper or more specific answer when the facts are already clear, chilling out right in front of our noses. I always leave these situations feeling this way, that cosmically speaking we are bloated babies with God complexes, scared little monkeys running around terrified of our mortality and creating things behind which we can hide our inadequacies, fetishes, and neuroses.

I believe that violence is disgusting and sad, and whether it was a jihadist bigot killing a bunch of innocent people, or a national hero-in-his-mind, or any other possible combination of random bits of information, what we are told by the TELLERS does not matter as much as what we feel as HUMANS and I, right now, feel sick. I know I can’t flee or flag-burn and condemn the system or tote some Sanders-style “revolution,” but I can definitely say how I feel.

I think that what I’m trying to communicate is that if more of us felt comfortable expressing ourselves–and conversely if more of us helped other people feel comfortable when they express themselves–some hopeful metaphorical sun may peek out from behind the dark clouds that hang over us on days like today and help illuminate the possibility for a better tomorrow that it feels like we so actively avoid–or at least clue some more of us in on its existence.

7/7/16: Police murdering black men: White police murdering black men. A man was murdered in front of his wife and child last night because he reached for his ID and the cop got scared. Think about that.

Because I’m white, I have less to worry about when a cop pulls me over. That’s not privilege, it’s disgusting. Why so much violence? Why so much fear? Why so much denial? Do these police apologists want to live in a world where cops function as in-the-moment executioners? I know I don’t. I thought in America we were afforded the right to be run through the–admittedly corrupt–justice system before the decision was made at a federal level to murder us? Apparently not, especially so if you’re black.

“But Nick, what would you have done? Given the increased violence against police officers wouldn’t you be more than a little scared?”

No, because I’d never be a cop. I don’t feel anyone has the right to make a decision that ends someone’s life, especially myself. And is it so scandalous to expect that a law enforcement agency would be trained well enough so that they could control their fear and not unjustifiably murder someone? What a concept! Furthermore, what are they so afraid of? That he’s black? Finally, there is no increased violence against police officers, in fact the world has become less violent over the past 100 years.

C’mon guys.

How will gun lobbyists defend this one? “Guns don’t kill people–racist cops kill people.”

At this point it’s completely undeniable–well really, it’s been undeniable in America for about two centuries–that there is a rampant epidemic of racism in law enforcement that runs right alongside the longstanding American practice of unjustifiable and senseless violence. Why are we so afraid to admit this?

Violence begets more violence and distrust. If the goal really is to create a peaceful free society, something needs to be done now. But if the goal is to continue toward a violent and cold military-industrialized dystopia where policemen walking the beat are responsible for ending the lives of people that they deem to be criminals through no other indication but the color of their skin, well, we’re doing just fine.

7/22/16: Media’s coverage of violent events:  This politico bullshit plaguing every one of my media outlets is starting to drive me up the wall. I just can’t help but feel that we focus on this crap to avoid talking about (what I feel) is the most obvious root and symptom of almost every one of our societal ills.

Violence.

In 2013, roughly 842,000 deaths were attributed to self-harm (suicide), 405,000 to interpersonal violence, and 31,000 to collective violence (war) and legal intervention (cops killing people/death penalty). [sourced below]

I think it’s easy to be a violent psychopath. Almost any human at any time
Is capable of inflicting a shocking level of violence on any other human within a reasonable distance. Yet, it doesn’t happen constantly…why is that?

After all, humans are just fearful primates struggling to stay alive in a world they’ve created that’s too big and has become nearly incomprehensible with information and certainly unmanageable, right? And there’s so many of us who are just complete Trump-voting morons who suck up the TV politico nonsense as if it means a single damn thing in reality and jerk off to our right to own a weapon that allows us to mow down other humans as if they were dried up hayweed, right? And the ones of us who aren’t waxing nationalistic are just over-privileged bleeding heart liberals plagued by guilt and a complete inability to address–never mind solve–our own problems which rarely consist of more than trying to figure out whether to call a Lyft or an Uber in order to get to brunch. Right? Doesn’t that sound like reality? Isn’t that who you are and who I am? And aren’t those the designations we are continually coerced to ascribe to?

Maybe not. Maybe we’re just a young and scared species with brains too big for our own good who continue to create remarkable systems and inventions that righteously scare us right out of our piss-soaked pants. Maybe that’s why we look to religious zealots or bright orange reality TV stars or the wife of an oligarch or people with lots of make up, styled hair, and sharp looking glasses who talk like they actually gave a fuck in their classes during undergrad.

I feel completely ill about this, I feel so lost in details. If a man driving a large truck drives over 80 people who cares what fake pie-in-the-sky he prays to before doing so? It’s a human killing humans because he’s uncomfortable being a human. Just look at the information I cited. In 2013, more people died violently at their own hand than at the hand of someone else. Why is that? Maybe because they were scared and they hated them-self for it and they were afraid to talk to anyone else about it because that person may react negatively and berate them in order to distance themselves because they too are fearful of admitting their own self hatred which is rooted in the same notion, that existence may be completely empty and meaningless and that its awfully scary to consider that possibility. Hmm? How about that?

And what of interpersonal violence? Well, I’d be willing to bet my life that almost every act of human-on-human violence has at least some component of psychological projection that could have been better solved with a time-out in the big chair, a slap on the ass from their mommy, and a conversation with the object of their frustration that could go something like this;

A: “Hey, I’m sorry about that. I’m really confused and scared, and when I realize this, I act out like an animal being put in a cage.”

B: “That’s okay, I’m sorry too. Gee golly gosh, I guess it turns out you and I have something in common after all.”

So again, if life is meaningless and uncontrollable and our species is little more than animals motivated by reproduction and food, why aren’t we just tearing one another apart constantly? My guess is that we actually don’t want to hurt one another and what we really want is some form of companionship in our individual lonely journeys on this big scary planet. Is that really a radical idea? Does it really sound that unlikely?

Maybe I’m just the most cynical man on Earth but I just can’t buy that there’s a solution buried in the facade of the great orange asshole or Hillary the hawk or anyone else for that matter. Every post I see just makes me sadder because I realize that violence continues and will continue while we focus on rudimentary details that distract us from the real problem: we’re scared and don’t know what to do with ourselves.

I plead with anyone who’s persistent enough to stick with me on this rant to at least consider the fact that we are being played like pawns in a game between giant interest groups with lots of money who care for little more than profit. Please don’t let the political games or liberal buzzwords or republican bigotry or corporate benefits or what-the-fuck-ever fool you, none of these figureheads care a damn for us no matter what “side” they’re on, and the only thing we can do is try to build our own communities up to be the strongest versions of themselves through local commerce and staunch anti-violence (which does not mean having a police force that is allowed to commit violence at their whim without consequence).

It’s nearly two in the morning and I’m exhausted, exasperated, and embarrassed to be human so I post my unedited thoughts to a social platform where they can exist outside of myself and maybe generate some kind of discussion that will more likely than not just lead to an empty trading of words with other people who a soul-less algorithm–developed by a capitalistic billionaire and owned in part by corporate marketing interests–determines should view my thoughts.

7/25/16: Cambridge, MA: Cambridge might have the highest concentration of men that smoke cigarettes, have letter-carrier style bags, and wear their shirts tucked in.

8/15/16: The 2016 ElectionI find it interesting the angles that the two major political parties take during election season. This cycle it seems the Dems are sticking to their stale “hope for the future” platform whereas the GOP has adopted the “holy shit, it’s the goddamn apocalypse, be terrified” stance. This leads me to think that maybe the parties aren’t speaking to the global worldview as much as they are referring to the status of their own organizations.

If we look at it this way, then the GOP isn’t crying about the world being doomed as much as they are experiencing the final gasps of their party’s life as the orange haired and bigoted megalomaniac squeezes the life out of them with his smaller-than-average hands.

Similarly, the democrats–led by an imperialist war hawk–are grasping at straws, forging some kind of shaky lean-to (built with empty promises of military withdrawal and more vigilant tax spending) to protect themselves from the truth that their party is doomed to the same fate if they don’t learn to adapt. In this sense, their declaration of “hope” is a cry-out for themselves. As in, “hey, let’s hope this horseshit doesn’t happen to us next cycle.”

I think this is a helpful perspective to try out. Just remember that every time you hear a right-winger shout, “Apocalypse!” that he is referring to the firey death of his own party. And every time you hear a left-winger shout, “Hope!” he is referring to a deep insecurity that his party will no longer be able to hide their sly bigotry and imperialistic tendencies behind structurally compromised walls of social justice and economic reform.

Maybe that’ll help you feel a little better? It did for me when I though of it today.

The sad reality is that no matter the outcome of the election, there is a large probability that an uncomfortable majority of us blue-collar more average than average Joe the Plumber types will blame the US political system for our problems and continue living our short–and ultimately meaningless–lives in a some nebulous spot occupying the space between neurotic paralyzing fear and purposeful mind-numbing (but arguably blissful) ignorance. I guess realistically, not all that much will change until the Earth gets so pissed off at our wastefulness that it decides to forcefully rid itself of its infestation of land-dwelling parasitic louses that vaguely resemble deformed primates. And then, who knows?

Have a positive day! 🎷🐬💥👽👌

8/24/16: Murder of a New Bedford Teen: Looks like at least 3 teens were involved in a stabbing that has ended with at least one of the kids dying from his wounds. How awful.

News like this sends me to a dark place with very little hope. This kid had barely lived. Who knows what type of opportunities he had or what type of support was available for him? How is it that he was able to make choices at such an early age that led to such dire consequences? And in the same community where I was raised?; Where a death by stabbing was a very distant, almost laughable, possibility? What was so different about his upbringing and mine? Evidently we lived in completely different worlds running parallel to one another, how awful and confusing. It makes me feel really sad to see young kids creating such a hopeless reality like this for themselves and falling victim to the disturbingly violent and bleak narratives that society has already constructed for them.

15 years old. That means that 5 years ago he was a 10 year old kid. Do you remember being 15? Man, I love New Bedford but this is a straight up unacceptable occurrence. I know I rail on about violence here on (empty echo chamber) social media sometimes, and I apologize to those of you who may misunderstand my pleas as self-righteousness but again I find myself compelled to bring it up.

How in our community can we eliminate violent behavior and replace it with open dialogue? Is it even possible to realign the values of a community when the surrounding world is so apparently hell-bent on destroying itself with capitalistic and authoritarian ideals? Is there an organization in New Bedford that works to promote peace and empowerment in the community directly (apart from any sly political or fiscally motivated programming)?

Man, this has me feeling like shit. Just so sad.

8/29/16: Starbucks: For me, Starbucks mostly functions as a public bathroom that happens to sell burnt coffee.

9/11/2016: 9/11:  My generation grew up watching the footage of the towers collapsing and living with the global/social fallout. Being a skeptic, I don’t know what happened that day. Realistically it probably doesn’t matter. Every explanation that I can imagine or that I have heard leaves me with the same sick feeling about the human capacity for fear and violence. I just wish I didn’t annually see so much empty nationalism on this day. Almost anything is better; humor, thoughtful recollection, anything.

I think peace is possible, at least I hope it is. Today I worked a farmer’s market where I met a lot of nice people and sold them really beautiful fruit and veggies. Aside from the humidity and the glaring sun it was a great day. If only…

9/20/2016: September 20th, 2011:  On September 20th in 2011, my car was in the shop. I was working in Fall River at the time and needed a ride home. My mother, having the day off, offered to give me a lift. She was spending the day with a friend of hers, helping them run some errands and take care of some personal stuff.

When my mother arrived to pick me up, I hopped in the driver’s seat, “Nick, I had a long day, would you mind driving?” and started down 195 to take us home. Just as we hit 140 south toward New Bedford she got a phone call.

“Hello?”
“No, I’m not sure where she is. When I left she was about to lay down to take a nap.”
“Ok, sure. Keep me updated.”

It was a call from the son of her friend *****, the woman she had spent the day with. He had woken up from a nap 20 minutes earlier and couldn’t find his mother. Her car was in the driveway but she was nowhere to be seen. My mom supposed that she had run across the street to the store, or had maybe gone for a walk.

About ten minutes later her phone rang again, this time the voice on the other line was frantic, a near shout. I saw my mother’s facial expression change to horror and my blood ran cold.

“What’s going on, Ma?”
“Nick! Turn the car around, go to *****’s house now!”

*****’s son had found his mother hanging in the backyard. I illegally banged the car around exit 1 where 140 meets Route 6 and floored it to Kim’s house. My mother called 911 on the way and tried to get in touch with *****’s boyfriend.

We got there before anyone else, just in time to see *****’s body hanging and her son struggling to pull her body down from the tree. About 45 seconds after we arrived, her boyfriend screeched into the driveway, followed moments later by the police. She was dead.

The next few hours were a blur, EMTs arrived, some of her family showed up, more police came, statements were taken. Everyone was sad, or angry, or some combination of the two. My mother was inconsolable, her eyes distant and detached. Being the most personally removed from the situation, the police decided to use me to help corral the family–a decision I’m still not sure I entirely understand.

“Hey, keep an eye on her son for us, make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.”
“Could you ask her boyfriend to come speak with us?”

At some point, one of her family members found a suicide note and started to read it aloud from the porch for all to hear. It apologized to her boyfriend, told her children she loved them, and said something I’ll never forget, “this world is hell.”

I don’t really remember the rest of the day. At some point it started raining and I went home with my mother, unsuccessfully tried to console her, and eventually found myself in my bedroom holding my acoustic guitar. I was completely exhausted. I was confused. I was terribly sad.

Watching the rain drop down my window, I remembered something. I had a phone call to make. Earlier that day I had been texting with someone who I had a major crush on and was trying to set up a date. She didn’t live nearby so we had decided that I would give her a call when I had gotten home from work to catch up and make some plans. That was supposed to be around 6 o’clock and it was now at least 11:30. Shit, it was too late, I hadn’t texted her, and I was in no place to talk.

Instead of calling and trying to explain myself, I started noodling on my guitar. Minutes later some chords started unfolding, and then out of nowhere, words came.

A few weeks later I recorded an album with two of my friends and included this song. I still hadn’t called my crush nor had I texted her. Call it anxiety, call it nervousness, or call it selfishness, I’m still not sure which is the truth.

That evening the words just came to me. The first verse addresses me sitting in my room watching the rain fall, the second comments on my anxieties about missing a chance with a woman I liked, and the third and fourth are me feeling the pain of witnessing the suicide of a friend. The last section, a singular line, came up in studio.

We had finished tracking all of the vocals and instruments for the song and we felt like the last portion needed some kind of a vocal line. I decided to just hit record and wing it. What came to my mind instantly was an image of me, standing at a bar somewhere with the girl I was crushing on, telling her the story of finding *****’s body and how it made me feel. In that moment I felt complete doubt and shame with myself and thought, “Well, that’s one way to guarantee you sleep alone tonight.”

*****’s death haunts me. The image of pulling into her driveway and seeing her hanging is burned into my brain. That moment has shaped me and has been instrumental in how I understand my life, and how I shape my experience. I believe to be true her final comment that this world is hell. But, since her death I’ve found that I’d add a postscript; that this world can be heaven too, If we’d only allow it.

9/22/2016: News:  I’m pissed. What is it with these “news” articles from alt-right sites that people post after every police officer shooting that try to tarnish the image of the victim? Whether or not these victims had warrants or had a history of crime does not matter. They were wrongfully killed by police officers. That’s the point! Cops are not bastions of moral fortitude and judgement, they do not have permission to execute based on a difference in principles. Helloooooo…

Why do you scumbags who repost those articles feel the need to relish in the fact that the victim may not have been a Dudley-Do-Right? Do you get off on it? Do you think about it when you’re lying in bed alone and squeal with delight? Do you feel pleasure in your loins when you sit there imagining a father/brother/son lying on the street bleeding out and telling yourself “he’s a bad man, he deserves it, I’m so much better than him.” What kind of a sorry excuse for a human are you?

Also, white people, why is there so much fear of #blacklivesmatter? Does it make you feel threatened to see a historically oppressed population stand up for themselves and fight back against the status quo? Has it been easier to live with your eyes closed, telling stories to yourself that all of these victims of police violence were bad people, and that every cop is a stand-up everyday goody guy gun-toting American foot soldier?

Get real here. This is gross. Every person has the right to a voice whether or not you agree with it–yes, including Colin Kaepernick. It’s a goddamn song and a banner. True patriotism is standing up for an ideology of freedom, and that means freedom of expression you closed-minded wack jobs!

To me, violence is wrong in any capacity whether it be a protester gone mad, a cop killing someone, a drone dropping bombs on a small village in the desert, a soldier cutting down some enemies, or even schoolyard bullying. Admittedly this is an extreme and un-pragmatic position to take, but it’s what I’ve arrived at and I just can’t take the type of hypocritical banter I’m seeing every day on social media, in the news, or even just walking down the street. It makes me want to jump in the ocean and just swim off the edge of the Earth. So much fear. Gross.

10/7/15: Trump:  I’m still quietly hoping that Trump is really just a genius satirist or maybe a performance artist. Just instead of nailing his balls to the sidewalk like that guy in Russia, he’s nailing the American political systems’ balls to a rocket that’s set to fly into the farthest reaches of our galaxy. Wackadoo.

Free write: 9/6/2016

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Late Summer patiently waiting to give way to Fall.

It’s coming, can you feel it?  It blew against my face today as I stood barefoot in a sandpit in a family member’s backyard.  I heard it in between the notes of Leonard Cohen’s guitar as I listened to him mumble/croon on “Chelsea Hotel #2.”  I felt it tickle the bare skin on my triceps as I stood in a parking lot in Boston at 1:30 in the afternoon on a particularly muggy day.  Shadows are casting longer than just a month ago and the sun hangs lower in the sky, already starting the descent to its hiding place below the horizon when I’m driving back to my apartment from a long day of work on the farm.

Fall is here, patiently waiting for summer to end, throwing its subtle reminders at us: “Buy some sweaters!  Make sure your jacket doesn’t need to be dry cleaned!”  Even the beers are changing.  Gone are the crisp citrusy pilsners and hop-bomb IPAs and here come the thick, caramel colored, malty lagers, the kind of beverages that are meant for a sweatshirt and a campfire, or maybe a large turkey leg and a bratwurst.

Autumn is the best, especially here in southern New England.  Nothing beats that crisp air, that urge to sit outside at night drinking high ABV beers and chatting for hours with your friends, that overwhelming beauty when you drive on the highway and see the lush green leaves turning to vibrant shades of rusty red, burnt orange, and golden yellow.  If you think another season is better than Fall, you’re wrong.  Plain and simple.  Summer might be the only season which can challenge autumn, its arrival itself a similar experience to the elation that the first licks of the autumn season bring.  Though in summer, the sun is higher in the sky, warming your face up, pulling you out of the sorry, wet, and cold excuse of a season that we call the New England spring.

Fall brings me back.  Suddenly I’m in high school.  I’m stuck in the past picking that first outfit for the year, receiving a new schedule, scoping out the classrooms to see who I’ll be checking out and/or avoiding.  It was always the best part of the school year, when teachers were still sweet and excited to be working with you, before they’ve reached their first half of the year burnout.  It was a time when your relationships with fellow students were still blooming, not enough having happened to fuck up the pleasantly innocent early-in-the-schoolyear vibes.

You still have butterflies in your stomach, wondering what will happen next, and where, and with whom. Fall brings back suiting up for football games, my body steaming in the crisp night air when I rip my pads off and head to the locker room.  It brings back my first experiences with love and romance, holding my high school girl friends hand at the annual Thanksgiving  bonfire,  the tips of my ears stinging because I forgot to wear a hat.

Then, I’m in college.   I remember making mistakes in my first few weeks at Holy Cross, making decisions that ruin relationships before they’ve even begun, destroying school property, waking up too hungover to function, making a fool of myself to some woman somewhere who knows about something stupid I did with someone else at some other time in some other situation.  I’m at alumni weekend, drinking with some middle aged men who convinced us, “Hey, we used to live in this dorm room!”  They drank our beers!  Not even their own!  Now that I think about it, I can’t believe how cheap that was of them.

Maybe I haven’t had enough time away from Holy Cross yet to remember my Fall seasons there with any kind of pleasant nostalgia.  Really the best times I had during the Fall in college were with two of my best friends in Western MA, a place that became a refuge for me after my sophomore year, when I could no longer handle spending time on the Holy Cross campus.  I would whisk away there just about every weekend, if not every other weekend.

I remember wearing sweatshirts and jeans, riding through Western MA blasting music, drinking beer, letting a high taper off as I rolled down the windows and breathed in the fresh farmland air.  I remember crashing on couches or in two hundred year old houses on the Connecticut river where we would eat steak and drink all night long, laughing, playing music, and enjoying life with some of the most interesting people I have ever met.  There were crazy costume parties full of fuzzy memories, dancing, playing beer pong with Kathleen Turner, teaching a girl how to play ukulele who’s name I can’t remember at a party in some weird version of a dorm at Hampshire college where there was far too many people and too much smoke and too much liquor.  Sitting on someone’s bed, seeing them take pills out of small sandwich bags or rub some mysterious something on their gums.  Laughing, laughing so hard that you think you are going to puke.  Strolling through downtown Northhampton and getting ice cream even though it’s far too cold, digging through used book shops in Amherst, and falling in love with every girl I met that would have a real conversation with me like a regular Holden Caulfield.

There were times sitting on porches, rapping about life with friends, playing harmonica with some weirdos who I didn’t know, skyrocketing a beer in protest of us getting kicked out of two parties in the same night, one where we had pretended to be a Jewish acapella group, and another where I had made an off-color joke to a particularly sensitive crowd.

There were people dressed in costumes, strained drunken meetings with an ex-girlfriend, walking for what felt like two decades just to grab a few slices of pizza, being woken up in bed with a girl on her birthday by her roommate who burst in holding a cupcake with a birthday candle in it which neither of us could get up and grab because we were naked under the sheets.  I remember the cold autumn air creeping in through a window as we played guitars and recorded albums of improvised music, or ran through the plot lines and jokes of a screenplay we had written inspired by our own lives.

Picking up a hitchhiker and bringing her to a job interview, filling up hookah with wine, discussing philosophers, and drinking the shitty coffee that she made us in her french press.  Later in the night, I would leave her with my friends as I slowly started to realize she would impinge on our evening plans of bar-hopping.  It was now their job to figure things out while I was waiting for them to meet me in some pub, where I was drinking beer and telling the story to whomever would listen.  I don’t think my friends have fully forgiven me since.  I saw it as pragmatic decision making, you know the whole self preservation thing, they saw it as abandoning ship.  Difference of opinions I guess.  Oh well, it all worked out in the end, at least for us.  Who knows for her?

Every year these feelings and memories blow in on Fall’s crisp winds and I heartily welcome them, so really my love of Fall may be more of a chicken and the egg argument than I would have imagined.  It’s the only time of year when I feel even vaguely nostalgic and frankly it’s the only type of nostalgia that doesn’t make me feel like I want to double over and spill the contents of my stomach onto the floor.  So, for that, I am especially grateful.

When I was in Western MA, I was in a different universe, a place I had created with my best friends where consequence didn’t exist and the world was there for us to explore.  It was the ultimate escape from the nightmare reality I had created for myself back at Holy Cross–an experience I have written about extensively on this blog in the past, so no worries dear reader, there will be none of that here today. The biggest concerns were how to pay for beer and/or weed, and to maybe find some women we could flirt with.  My time out there was wholly necessary for me,  to this day I relish every moment I get to spend there, and I am forever grateful for my friends who supported me and helped me get out there when I could’t find a way or couldn’t properly afford to.  You guys helped save my life!

In October I’ll be going back out there with some of the same friends and loved ones who were there with me in the past, as well as some new ones, to make new memories and I can hardly wait.  I hope by that time that Fall is in full swing, and I cannot wear a T-shirt outside without a jacket or an over shirt.  I do not want to pack any shorts and sneakers with me, only jeans and boots…oh, and malty, high ABV beers.

Though, if climate change continues its terrifying pattern of rapidly warming the planet into a giant ball of soupy humidity, my beloved crisp autumns may not be very long for this world…PLOT TWIST!  This was an anti-climate change PSA the whole time!

Sleep well and don’t let the super storms destroy you.