All The Sad Men, revisited

His name was Daniel, but he answered to Dan. As in when his mom called out, “Just tell the man ‘no,’ Dan.” 

From my register I was asking him the same questions (those designed as blatant pleas to grab even more of your cash before you leave the store) that I ask everyone. I was doing so, both because we’re supposed to, and also because I didn’t want Dan to think that I saw him any differently than those customers that preceded him. Even though I did.

In fact, my interaction with him reminded me of a post that I wrote a little over two years ago now. A post remembered as I asked God to bless Dan and his family while they happily left my store. A post that I’d like to revisit here today…

She sat there, munching somewhat sloppily on her burger, occasionally spitting forth bits as she yelped out to no one in particular. And I sat there and stared. I felt bad that I was staring, but I wasn’t doing so out of rudeness. No, it was more like envy than superiority that I felt. It was more a case of “what if” than of “thank God not.” And here’s why.

Whenever I experience one living with severe special needs, I become somewhat immersed in what I imagine is their imprisonment. Their imprisonment in a world who wishes that they just weren’t around. Or at least, not quite so visible. But at the same time, I find myself jealous of their freedom. Freedom from this same world that ofttimes judges them in ignorance.

A world, mind you, that can be far more handicapped than they will ever be. A world filled with folk who care more about little dollar bills than they do each other. A world that places much more emphasis on the cut of the cloth than on the content of the character. In my very humble opinion, this world isn’t nearly good enough for people such as her. This world is a damned and empty shadow of what it could be, and I feel that we’ve all worked pretty hard at making it so. Or at the very least, sat back and simply allowed it happen.

So what of the poor girl-woman that suffered under my “not intentionally rude, but extremely rude nonetheless” stares? Why do I sometimes feel jealousy towards people like her? How could I be so crass as to make mention of the concept? Well, imprisoned as she appears, I would love to see the world through her eyes, just once. Just once to see if what I think to be true, actually is.

You see, I’m of the belief that her vision is much clearer than mine. I’m quite sure, in fact, that mine is muddled beyond the point of ever recognizing the Truth. A Truth that I believe she most likely sees quite naturally, and on a daily basis. A Truth that she may even long to share with the rest of us, if only we weren’t so ignorant to her language.

She sees the Truth, and I see only what I choose to see. And yet she is locked in the wheeled chair, while I roam free…

I suppose I should step back for a moment and let you know where my meanderings on the topic come from. I’ve no personal experience in my own family, but when I was young, I was forced (yes, I meant to say that – or at least did at the time) to volunteer at an institution that cared for people like my incidental lunch companion.

As my parents felt it was important to teach us about stewardship, part of their education to this end included a trip to a local long-term care center that managed the severest cases. As a young and unappreciative pisser, I recall hating the place when we first arrived. The stark white walls did nothing to conceal the smell of piss and medicine. The painted-over drop ceiling served more to rebound, than muffle the occasional non-sensical shout or yelp. The halls were clogged with wheel chairs, and in each sat an alien life form. A being so far removed from my knowledge of the world as to be almost comical, if only they didn’t frighten me so.

Being young, and being a pisser, and being there against my will, I decided that hatred would be my best response. Hatred towards these creatures. Hatred towards their needing my assistance. Hatred towards their being around at all. I did as I was told, but only just. How dare they make me? How dare they be here? How dare they exist?

And then, as happens so often in life, something happened. And that something was this. One of them began wailing. And not just a whimper or a sob, but an honest-to-Jesus moon-raising moan. One that would make you think that they were seeing Satan’s ghost himself. And for all I know, maybe they were. The wailing only made me feel uncomfortable. But to another, it provoked a different reaction. I can’t recall if it was an employee, a volunteer, a random passer-by, or maybe even an angel in disguise. But I do remember watching one soul walk deliberately up to the young wheelchair-entrapped wailer, and hugging them. Simply hugging them. The wails continued, but so did the hug. And eventually both were quietly put to rest. Both the hugger and the wailer were at peace. I stood there dumbfounded as the blinds were torn from my eyes, my little stupid pisser attitude backhanded to the floor.

I could physically feel myself growing up a little bit that day. One of the first of many times I’ve had the experience.

A little while later I was pushing along one of the more talkative residents who would speak and speak and speak, and occasionally even say something. At one point he looked me dead in the eye, and with no prompt or reason whatsoever, told me very lucidly the exact day it would start snowing and the exact amount – in quarter inches – that we would receive. I’m sure you already know by now that I’m going to tell you that he was exactly correct on both counts. EXACTLY. Dumb luck? Could’ve been. Dumb luck does seem to have a way of getting around. But I’d like to think that there’s something more to it.

In fact, I’d like to think that maybe – just maybe – there are certain people who are so spiritually in-tuned, so close to God, that they’re incapable of making themselves small enough as to deal with our little shambles of a “reality.” They’re exalted over the angels, but trapped on this mortal plain, and they simply can’t function at such a junior level. They need our help in this world, but only because we’ll need theirs in the next. We just don’t know it yet. They’re not “retarded,” we are. They are of a higher prominence, yet we sit smugly by and laugh at their superiority.

I know. It sounds a little too naive to be true. And that, in part, is why I wanted to jump into my lunch mate’s head. Just once I really would like to see if I’m right. Or if I’m an idiot. Or both. It’ll never happen of course. For one thing, we don’t live in a Disney movie, and switches of this nature just aren’t possible. But even if they were, I don’t feel that the swap would be a very fair one. For her, that is.

•••

I feel it’s important to note, I’m using this song today not in jest, but in respect.  I too, long for the day when all of us “sane men” are locked away, and we allow the “mad” ones to finally be free.

Happy Easter, kids.

 

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109 Words Plus A Sentence: Ghosts Of Dachau

Once again, I am “mashing” my response to Master Class 2014 with the Friday Fictioneers prompt, and I do this for two reasons primarily.

Firstly, it permits me to somewhat “jump” the 100 word requirement for the latter. And secondly, it allows me to once again recommend that most of you should really try your hand at the former.

As always, I hope you enjoy, experience.

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Copyright – Sandra Crook

I observed the shit-stained haystack once more.

Had its movement been caused by the mere trundling of the cart, or were itchy passengers buried within?

As I wondered, I pondered… what are we doing? Why are we doing this?

I’d killed before. But he, a soldier, was armed with the same professional bloodlust as I. I would never forget, as out of breath, he dropped both arms to his side, still gripping the knife in his left hand, while his brain slowly acknowledged my round, that had just torn through it.

Yes, I’d killed before. But this was different. These, mere civilians.

Children.

Children deemed unfit due merely to their heritage, their identity, their God.

Our God.

My Gott…!

I closely observed the haystack once more, before waving on the shit-stained skittish driver with his dubious cargo, whispering to no one as they pensively passed, “Gott Sie segnen…”

•••

It’s no great secret that I plug-in a song at the end of every post, and it’s also no great secret that I never really push it upon you. But just this once, please, listen…

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David’s White Coat.

You might think that it should be The Clash, but it won’t.

Or possibly Judas Priest is the one band you think I’ll address today, but they’re not the winners either.

Surely you all know me well enough to know that it couldn’t possibly be Bobby Darin, as I do so loathe going with the over-the-top obvious in these matters.

And to those who know the inner me very well as well, perhaps you think The Bolshoi will be the band who rates my five, but even these lovely lads will be passed up for today.

And they will be likewise treated, as even more important than they, New Model Army has for many a year led my heart’s fray.

First formed in 1980, and still recording and touring till this day, these boys out of Yorkshire, England first captured me in 1988, with my unplanned purchase of their self-named EP tape (one of the many such bands that I came to love, after purchasing their album based SOLELY upon the artwork) – an EP tape that awoke my melodic and social senses with an immediate kick to the mental stones, partially due to their message of bleached lab coats gone mad…

David, my dearest friend and mentor during my stay in Jacksonville, North Carolina, at a little USMC air station called New River, chose this very song to last-dance to when he was leaving, discharge papers in-hand. And while that experience burned into my memory cells, it would prove to be a different N.M.A. song altogether that highlighted the “Tribe” that I had found for the first time ever, during those stormy days of my youngish life…

Appearing on their “Thunder & Consolation” album – a disc that would forever change the way I looked at people, “Vagabonds” was only bested by the following little ditty. A song of no consequence, unless of course, you listened to the lyrics…

Like many bands in my life, these boys and I parted ways at some point, though neither one of us will ever truly know why. And it wasn’t until we reconnected that these avowed witches were able to (once again) help to explain to me my avowed Christian beliefs, all while talking to me about “me…”

Once we reconnected, I went on a mad flourish (yes, complete with wrists a’ flailing, if you please) to catch up on all their efforts that I had missed out on while being absent. And as a result, your bonus track for today comes before track #5…

But alas, track #5 must ALWAYS come, and in the case of New Model Army, and in relation to a 44-year-old post-punk punk, the following provides strange consolation to an oldish man getting ready himself to be reborn…

Since 1988, they’ve spoken to me, consoled me and urged me on. I’m quite certain they never knew that they did so, but I’d like to thank them for the favor none the less. New Model Army – you should check them out.

•••

Jen, God bless ya for starting Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday, and God bless ya even more for providing us with the “favorite band” prompt for this week.

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Raised On The Radio (& Heavy Metal magazine)

Bravely yielding my six-string axe through a fiery inferno of hot rock and barely clad large breasted Amazonian women. All of whom are fighting amongst themselves, in a sweaty, hot, fornication-promising heap, over who will be the victor in having the honor of straddling my leg, as the nerd painter – decked in floods and flannel and dreams – creates my muscle-ripped mountain-top-commandeering portrait, replete with crotch-covering lion’s fur and a backdrop of gloomy and hard volcanic ejacu… Oh hell! I guest authored today on wicked cool Jen’s site, and here’s the wicked cool link to take you there.

Please pop on back and tell me what you thought about my wicked cool, Heavy Metal-doused diatribe!

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•••

Judy & Friends

The second-most virtuous man I know is going through a pretty intricate operation today. Please keep him and the most virtuous man I know, his husband, in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks, and this post is dedicated to them…

Sinatra did it.

Streisand did it.

Bennett did it.

Hell, Martin and Cole did it, years after they were already pushing up booze-soaked daisies.

But the Mother of all dueting, the forevermore Queen of all that the duet sun shines itself upon, was one Ms. Judy Garland. A consummate professional, she was confident in her talent enough, as to not throw under the bus whatever musical tit-for tatter happened to be working with her at the time. A lesson that one of her co-stars embraced. Another consummate professional in his own right, maybe you’ve heard of him before, and maybe it was here that you did…

To be sure, Mr. Darin was no stranger to the art of duet either, a talent that shown through never brighter, than when he cajoled a little-known lyricist (and founder of Capitol Records) into doing an entire album with him – one produced for Capitol’s competitor no less, the ATCO Records label…

Now if Judy ever sang with Mercer, I don’t know, but I do know she eventually nailed both Sinatra and Martin – in a one-two punch that left them reeling…

Speaking of duets, unbeknownst to most, Sinatra and Martin weren’t actually opposed to working together, and on very rare occasion, these two would lock horns (of the musical variety, of course), even if Garland wasn’t able to come out and play…

Hell, they were even known to on even rarer occasion “Pack” it in with Sammy in tow…

But it will still be Judy who ends the day (not to mention this post), with her ability to pick ’em, work with ’em, and make everyone a winner in the process. Even when the artist chosen had everything to gain, more the still when compared to Ms. Garland’s absolute nothing to lose…

Oh, and for all of you Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesdayers who thought about this bonus ditty the VERY SECOND you heard Sinatra’s name today; I want you to know that, 1) you are waaaaay old and, 2) it was the first thing I thought of as well… enjoy!

•••

PS: I decided that since any of the “relevant” duets I could have come up with (Queen/Bowie, Fine Young Cannibals/Somerville, Public Enemy/Anthrax, Strummer/Cash, Pogues/Maccoll,  Reznor/Murphy) would most likely already be addressed by other, more capable Tuesdayers, it left me the room to actually drop my music snobbery for a spell, and play around with this prompt instead. I hope you dug this momentary diversion into what – I fear – will soon to be a forgotten entertainment treasure, and I hope you do your part to help us remember a world wherein talent was what drove the industry we so love.

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What A Wonderful World, Pt. 2

No, IZ is not actually one of “the five” chosen for this week, but I love his take on these two songs, and thought it to be the perfect tie-in between last week’s post and this. Give it a listen. I’ll wait.

S’good, right?

So, week two in the 00’s (and to my knowledge, still no clear consensus as to how to pronounce that). The end of the decade found my musical knowledge reawakening somewhat, but this time not of my own accord. No, these new ear worms came from (3) primary sources, all of whom were nonexistent in my life previous to this decade.

1) My online tribe. Most of whom I have never actually met, many of whom I never will, a small number of whom I might, all of whom refuse to let me simply sit on my musical laurels, while the world continues to careen madly out of control, voice modulators be damned. It’s through good folks like these that I “discovered” a little known Hasidic Jew with a penchant for beat box…

They also introduced me to two upbeat kids with a small budget, big talent, and bigger dreams. DIY for the new century…

And speaking of kids…

2) The kids, AKA My Lovelies. Old enough now to form their own tastes, they’ve begun to fill my head – and my life –  with all sorts of new sounds. Sounds I would have never found on my own, or if I had, wouldn’t have appreciated nearly as much as I do. All because the very people I was blessed to have a part in creating, and am now responsible for raising, thought enough of me as to share their new-found treasure with. Treasure like Pink…

And treasure like these two newer players. Two who could very well, if they’re not careful, shortly turn the music (and video) world on its ever-living ear once again. A turn that, in my humble opinion, is much needed right about now. If you listen-watch to only one song in this post, make it this one…

3) The world-wide interwebs. Sorry, but these days I do rely on it much more than I do simply strolling the aisles of the record store. Partially because I’m lazy. Partially because I don’t have anything even close to the time required any more. And partially because – in Buffalo anyway – libraries even have more new music by lesser known artists, than the brick and mortar record stores do. It was online that I discovered that one of the few remaining members holding a piece of my youth is still recording. And as it turns out, doing a damned fine job of it as well…

So now we’re here. And tomorrow beckons. Will I be on-board? Most likely not. But that’s OK. I had my time, and my time was good. Tomorrow beckons as it always did, for the young people to stand up and have their voices heard. Voices that they are only now learning how to create. My prayer is that they will be more influenced by folks like The Clash and Public Enemy, Matisyahu and Macklemore, then they are by the Disney Machine.

They’ve the power to do either, and only time will tell.

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Another Tuesday, another Twisted Mix-Tape. This one rounding out our stroll through the decades. I’d like to thank Jen for pushing me into dredging up these musical memories, and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I.

Oh, and before we leave the decade, let’s take just a moment to celebrate the rebirth of Rick, through the 00 introduction of the “mash-up.” I knew you’d do it, Mr. Astley. I mean, after all, you DID say that you would never let me down, right?

Arms Aloft (Where To Now?)

You see, Sherman done moved on up.

sherman-hemsleyBut there’s no need to worry about that any longer.

And I think maybe Weezie had done so before him, but I can’t be certain. And that’s not the point at any rate, now is it? No, the point is that Sherman done kicked it in the 21st century, and when he left, he took a piece of my childhood with him. Now to be sure, it was a piece I gave freely, but still, a piece forever gone as a result of his departure.

Seeing as I had mentioned last time that I had pretty much “checked out” musically by the end of the 90’s, in lieu of immediately addressing new acts for the new century, I thought I would take a moment to breathe. Instead, devoting Part One to the those individuals who I entrusted a piece of my youth with, and who then took it with them as they rushed up unannounced to Saint Peter’s gate.

As far as a “mix” goes, this will most likely be shaky at best, but as far as a confession of unadulterated devotion and love goes, this is about as close as I’ll ever get, Again, musically speaking that is…

Joe. I still miss you. I never met you, but still I miss you. Honest to God! You really did help to make me the man (?) I am today, and you showed me that it’s not about “them,” or their actions – it’s about Me. It’s about Me, and what I do with that knowledge that counts…

Alan Meyers, you and the other Spud Boys taught me that it was OK to be “less” and still achieve more. You taught me that even plugs without sockets, still get theirs from time to time. Human Metronome, bang on my brother…

Adam. Dear peaceful Adam – I’ve been told all too often (most usually by a certain someone I used to know) that I was far “too white” to ever truly grasp the genius of rap. Thank you for opening that door to me, all while playing a mean-ass bass, to boot…

Back to post-punk in a second, but I do have to take a moment to say goodbye to Dave. God bless Dave.

Say what you will. Pontificate on any number of given topics, but you must admit, without Jazz, you have no rock and roll. Without jazz, you have no punk. Without jazz, you have no Two Tone. Without jazz, there is no black people playing with white people in harmony. There is no Jew playing with Christian. There is no musician simply looking at another while saying, “Let’s jam, man.” Without jazz, you don’t have modern music. And – in my humble opinion – without Mr. Brubeck, well man, you just don’t has jazz…

OK, so that was that, and this is this. I end Part One of the 00’s with Joey. Because of all the musical family members lost in the 21st century, his was to me the first. And as such, it hurt the worst. His death forever stole from me the idea I had long-held that there could somehow ever be pieces of my youth that would never die, nestled as they were gently in the arms of my Rock Gods.

A lot more would eventually die for me in the 21st century, and a lot more most likely will. But it was these musical nuggets of my past – my serenity while growing up, really – that have eventually proven the hardest to truly say good-bye to.

•••

mixtape-jenkehl1-300x300Jen’s Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday is Phat with a “P. H.” (I’m in the right decade for that, correct?) and I really wish you would play along to show me your musical memories. Next week we conclude the 00’s to date, and I’ll try to show that I at least have somewhat of a grip on the current goings on…